Following the announcement in March that the Provincial Grand Master, Peter Hosker, was to retire on 19 May, a great deal of planning and hard work has taken place in London by UGLE and the Provincial team in Hope Street to prepare for the investiture meetings
In the last few days the all the planning by the Provincial Grand Directors of Ceremonies came together as the acting officers met in Leyland for two nights of rehearsals.
The job of moving the regalia, chapter and lodge furniture from Liverpool and Blackpool Masonic Hall to the Winter Gardens, Blackpool was also undertaken the day before the investiture meeting so that the temple could be prepared for the investiture in the morning of James Anthony Harrison as Provincial Grand Master of the Province of West Lancashire by the Grand Secretary, Nigel Brown.
On the day of the investiture final rehearsals started at 8am as the Grand Director of Ceremonies, Oliver Lodge and his team took the acting officers through their perambulations for the final time.
When the doors were opened to the ballroom in the Winter Gardens, Blackpool more than 1,800 brethren took their seats before the first procession commenced. The procession was led by the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Keith Kemp who proceeded Howard Jones, Deputy Provincial Grand Master in Charge and the senior officers and acting Provincial Offcers of the Provincial Grand Lodge of West Lancashire along with representatives from the seven oldest lodges in the Province into the packed ball room in the Winter Gardens
Howard then opened Provincial Grand Lodge in due form.
The Grand Director of Ceremonies was then admitted into the lodge – He informed the Provincial Grand Master in Charge that the Grand Secretary stood outside and demanded admission, Howard said he would be pleased to receive him.
The Grand Director of Ceremonies, Oliver Lodge accompanied by his three Deputy Grand Directors of Ceremonies led the Grand Secretary, Nigel Brown, who was accompanied by Assistant Grand Secretary, Tony Rayner and three Provincial Grand Masters: Keith Dalrymple (Isle of Man), Steven Adcott (Cheshire) and Sir David Trippier (East Lancashire) along with other visiting grand officers in what was a very colourful procession into the ballroom.
After being welcomed to the meeting Nigel was offered the gavel by Howard. Nigel accepted the gavel and took his seat. Nigel appointed his wardens Steven Adcott (senior warden) and Keith Dalrymple (junior warden), with Rev Graham Halsall acting as Grand Chaplain, he proceeded to open Grand Lodge.
Nigel addressed the brethren, informing them that the object of the meeting was to invest Tony Harrison as the Provincial Grand Master for the Province of West Lancashire.
The Grand Director of Ceremonies then submitted the Provincial Grand Master designate’s Patent of Appointment to Nigel for inspection. After inspecting the Patent Nigel asked the Grand Director of Ceremonies to form a deputation to introduce the Provincial Grand Master designate.
On the return of the delegation the Assistant Grand Secretary read the Patent of Appointment.
At this point Nigel asked Tony if he could conscientiously undertake the duties of the office, to which he gave his consent.
A prayer was then read by the acting Grand Chaplain. After the prayer Tony took his obligation, after which he was invested and placed in the chair of King Solomon. Nigel congratulated Tony on behalf of the Grand Master, he was then conducted to a chair on the right of the Provincial Grand Master and the deputation resumed the positions in the lodge.
The acting Grand Wardens and Chaplain were replaced by the Provincial wardens and chaplain.
The Grand Director of Ceremonies proclaimed Tony as the Provincial Grand Master and called on the brethren to salute him. To which Tony gave a suitable reply.
Tony addressed Howard Jones, saying: 'You have been Deputy Provincial Grand Master since 2012, previous to which you were an AsstProvGM for four years. Throughout this time, you have clearly demonstrated your enthusiasm and commitment to Freemasonry and to this Province, and I had absolutely no hesitation in asking you to be Deputy Provincial Grand Master, which you have thankfully accepted.
Tony obligated and Invested Howard as the Deputy Provincial Grand Master and he was conducted to his Chair.
A Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies proclaimed Howard as Deputy Provincial Grand Master and called on the brethren of the Province to salute him. To which Howard gave a suitable reply.
Tony named the brethren he was reappointing as Assistant Provincial Grand Masters: 'I am pleased to report that the nine Assistant Provincial Grand Masters have all indicated that they wish to continue in their important roles. I thank them individually and collectively for their support. They are: Raymond Martland, Philip Gunning, Anthony Bent, Mark Dimelow, Harry Cox, David Winder, John Hutton, Derek Parkinson and David Grainger. Thank you very much indeed.
Tony continued: 'As you have all previously filled the office of APrGM, it is not necessary for you to repeat, in full, the obligation which you took when you were first appointed. I will read it and you must, re-affirm the undertakings you made then with regard to the performance of the duties of the office, and that you made when you were first appointed.' Which they did and Tony then said: 'I have much pleasure in appointing each of you as AsstProvGM’s'.
A Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies proclaimed the reappointed Assistant Provincial Grand Masters and called on the brethren of the Province to salute them.
Tony said: 'In addition to the re-appointment of those nine AsstProvGM’s, I intend to appoint as AsstProvGM, Kevin Poynton, who will succeed the late Ian Boswell who passed away very recently.
Kevin, you have been a mason for over 34 years, during which time you have held the office of Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies for three years in the Craft and then three years in the Royal Arch. You have been Assistant to ProvGMs for just over 12 months and had already started to make a positive impact within the groups under your care. You are a highly experienced mason and I am looking forward immensely to working with you.
Kevin gave a solemn obligation with regard to the performance of the duties of his office. After giving his obligation Tony appointed him as Assistant Provincial Grand Master.
A Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies then proclaimed Kevin an Assistant Provincial Grand Masters and called on the brethren of the Province to salute them. To which Kevin gave a suitable reply.
Tony addressed Provincial Grand Lodge:
'Brethren, can I begin my address by thanking the Grand Secretary, Nigel Brown for his attendance here today and for literally stepping in at the last minute, and to the Assistant Grand Secretary for today, Tony Rayner and the Grand Director of Ceremonies Oliver Lodge who, together with their deputies and assistants, have brought so much to what has been a splendid occasion.
'I am sure I speak for everyone in the Province when I say how delighted we are to see you here for both investitures and I hope your stay in West Lancashire will be remembered as a happy and memorable one.
'The Installation of a new ProvGM is an important milestone in the life of any Province and today has been no exception and it is only right and proper that firstly, I pay tribute to my predecessor, Peter Hosker. Whilst much of Peter’s time in office was spent attending installations, amalgamations, centenaries and even re-dedication ceremonies, behind the scenes he put an unbelievable amount of time and effort into making sure that this Province adopted procedures that would allow it to run in a much more business-like fashion.
'Yes we are doing much the same as before, but I can assure you brethren, because of what Peter put in place, we are doing everything a whole lot smarter and certainly a lot more efficiently.
'I am sure you will all join with me in wishing both Peter and his wife Julie, a long and happy retirement together.
'Brethren, you will all be aware of the tremendous amount of change that has been brought upon us in the past 12 months. I would now hope for a period of stability within the Province so that we can get on with what we are good at ‘enjoying our Freemasonry and making sure that everyone else enjoys it too’.
'To Howard Jones, who has agreed to continue as my deputy, I would say a huge thank you, as well as to my assistants who I have had the greatest of pleasure in reappointing this afternoon and would like to offer the thanks of the Province to Howard for all the work that he has undertaken as the Deputy Provincial Grand Master in Charge.
'It is indeed extremely sad that Ian Boswell only very recently lost his brave battle against his cancer but I would like to say how grateful we are to him for all the work that he did as AsstProvGM.
'I have been please to appoint Kevin Poynton as AsstProvGM with particular responsibilities for the Warrington, Widnes and Woolton groups and I welcome him to our new team.
'In a Province of this size, one that is still the largest under the UGLE, I cannot be everywhere, all the time, so I place an great amount of trust and responsibility in my deputy and assistants who I know work so hard at doing what they do so well. Brethren you have my unreserved thanks and appreciation and I look forward to us working closely together in the months and years to come.
'In West Lancashire our group system continues to serve the Province and membership well and our group chairman and their executive are, without doubt some of the most dedicated brethren we have and in recognition of, and in support of their office, I will be looking closely at the group system, with a view to devolving greater ownership, but for now, I would like to thank you all for your support, encouragement and commitment.
'The society in which we live and work continues to change at an alarming rate and Grand Lodge has changed to meet the myriad of challenges that those changes bring. Here in West Lancashire we have made those same changes and have met those same challenges. We continue to embrace the advantages that come with new technology and we make full use of the latest means of social media to reach out to the public at large and to communicate within our own membership. Technology does not stand still and neither should we. We are fortunate that within our membership we have brethren with the necessary skillsets in place to make sure we remain ready to adopt the very latest in communication and social media and we will continue to invest in appropriate technology where and when necessary.
'Through our Mentoring and Membership schemes we are tackling head on recruitment, retention and retrieval and already we are beginning to see the benefits. I would suggest to you all that there is nothing better than hearing of brethren talking about Freemasonry openly among their family, friends and colleagues. We are all membership officers and mentors and none of us should feel the need to have any separate designation. From this day forward you certainly have my permission to talk about Freemasonry and if someone asks you why you are, you can tell them Tony Harrison said so, and I am sure our Grand Secretary will confirm. And I would like to inform you all that there is now a new video on our Provincial website that explains the key elements of Freemasonry. Please take every opportunity to share it with your non-masonic friends as this may interest them in joining our fraternity.
'Brethren, as a Province we continue to be at the forefront of charitable giving. In the past year alone we gave just under £260,000 to non-masonic charities and donations to our West Lancashire Freemasons' Charity from our lodges, chapters and individuals, including Gift Aid on those donations, amounted to over £370,000 and we have every intention on not only maintaining that level of disbursement, but by your tremendous efforts, continuing to increase it year on year.
'In a little over two years-time, we will begin to celebrate our tercentenary. 2017 will be a year that will see great masonic events and ceremonial and centrally plans are already well underway. In West Lancashire we will be joining in those celebrations and separately, but complementary to, we will be organising our own events and in the near future I will be making a number of announcements concerning what we have in mind and if you feel that you have any ideas and wish to contribute in any way please let me know.
'Looking round this room now and the many lodge rooms I will look round in the future, serves as a constant reminder of the obligations and responsibilities that are placed upon me. Yes, in the months and years that lie ahead things will alter, nothing ever stays the same, In fact I can't begin to tell you just how much my life has changed already, but you know brethren I am enjoying every single minute of it and it really is my biggest wish that we can all share in that same enjoyment and fun.
'Every single brother of this Province has his own part to play in our future and I would like to encourage a greater transparency in what we do, so that everyone feels that he is part of the whole process and that his views and opinions are just as important as anyone else. But above all I would like to engender a feeling of being happy and having fun, which to me, is fundamental to the success and enjoyment of our entire organisation.
'Brethren, we are inheritors of a past so carefully laid down by some pretty formidable predecessors and we are dealing with a present that continues to change for the better. We now have the opportunity to build on our inheritance so that West Lancashire can continue to prosper and future generations in turn will inherit a Province with an exceptional past, an outstanding present and a wonderful future.
'In closing I would like to give a very big thank you to all the brethren from the Furness and South Lakeland Group and the Lancaster and District Group who together with their respective vice chairmen Peter Schofield and Martin Baxendale are stewarding this special day so well.
'Finally brethren, can I thank each and every one of you for your attendance here today and to those brethren from our neighbouring Provinces and to those from further afield, I trust that you have had a pleasant and enjoyable day here in Blackpool and we hope you all have a safe journey home. God Bless you all.'
Tony then closed Provincial Grand Lodge.
The Grand Director of Ceremonies then led the recession of grand officers out of the lodge.
From the Grand Secretary
Many readers will know of the Royal Arch 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons.
The final result has just been announced as £2.5 million. This is a fantastic sum and a great example of our philanthropy. As Secretary of the appeal, I know how much was done to achieve this impressive figure and that much of the praise is justly attributed to the Second Grand Principal as Chairman of the appeal.
You will all be receiving a DVD copy of our latest short film with this issue of Freemasonry Today. It has been greeted with great acclaim and we hope you will show it to your family.
It is different and exciting, designed specifically for family members to show them about our friendships, the importance of family and the good we do in our communities. In other words, Freemasonry is a great organisation of which to be a member, and one of which we should all be proud. Indeed, as we move towards our Tercentenary we should show our pride in being a member and look for people of quality who can join us to share in that pride.
Interestingly, two of the Senior Insights in this issue of the magazine discuss recruitment and retention. HRH The Duke of Kent, our Grand Master, explains that these tasks are more important than ever and emphasises the role of the mentoring scheme in retaining members. The Pro Grand Master asks why so few members recruit and urges us to become more active in this area. We encourage you to read both of these excellent articles.
In this issue, we believe you will find a great deal to inspire you about Freemasonry.
We profile Pete Bray, who, having survived two hurricanes and a sinking ship, is now embarking on a new journey as a Freemason. Paul Calderwood traces the Craft’s faltering relationship with the press throughout the twentieth century and provides some useful insight into how things have started to improve. Meanwhile, four members of a Salvation Army brass band explain why playing together is the perfect complement to being members of a lodge.
For some, the community of Freemasons across England and Wales is a fantastic way of sharing a common interest or raising much-needed money for good causes. For others, it provides a unique opportunity to bring people together. We find out how fighter pilot Len Thorne saw one of his squadron shot down during World War II; and how forty-five years later, at a Masonic Widows Friendship Club, Len discovered his colleague was still alive and living just eight miles down the road. Len is a fantastic example of the breadth of people who make up the Craft. I hope you enjoy reading his story and the many others in this issue.
‘In this issue of the magazine, we believe you will find a great deal to inspire you about Freemasonry.’
Forget the box office. There’s a movie exclusive on the front cover of this issue of Freemasonry Today. Sarah Holmes goes behind the scenes of a new film about the Craft, and meets the cast and crew bringing it all to life
A film crew is recording Sam Colling as he tears a Subaru Impreza around a muddy racetrack in Oxfordshire. Attempting a hairpin bend, Sam is in his element. While others might consider this a nightmarish experience, for thrill-seeking Sam – one of three Freemasons chosen to appear in the United Grand Lodge of England’s (UGLE’s) latest film – it’s a great way of unwinding. The short film, to be found on the front cover of this issue of Freemasonry Today, aims to convey to people outside of the Craft exactly what Freemasonry is all about by showcasing the diverse mix of people who enjoy it as a hobby.
With his love of extreme sports, and a Navy career that sees him regularly navigating the stormy North Atlantic Sea, Sam isn’t what people may typically expect of a Freemason. Fortunately, London-based director Lee Cheney had no intention of playing to preconceptions when it came to casting the film.
Part of visual communications specialist VisMedia, Cheney was commissioned by UGLE in May 2013 to create a modern portrayal of the masonic world, as told by the members themselves.
‘This film is very different from anything I’ve seen on Freemasonry before, and that is the real merit of it.’ Nigel Brown
A change of scene
It’s a step in a new direction for UGLE, which was eager to investigate the potential of rich media for expanding awareness of Freemasonry. As a non-mason, Cheney brought a fresh perspective that fitted perfectly with UGLE’s aim to nurture a more relevant, outward-facing perception of the Craft.
‘This film is very different from anything I’ve seen on Freemasonry before, and that is the real merit of it,’ says Grand Secretary Nigel Brown. ‘Lee immediately understood it should be angled from the perspective of the non-mason, and particularly that of the families.’
Nigel was keen that the film – funded by UGLE at a cost of just 20p per member – supported the families of masons. ‘It needed to give them an understanding of what Freemasonry is and show them that their nearest and dearest are part of a fine community.’
Cheney’s brief was to demonstrate Freemasonry’s compatibility with a modern, balanced lifestyle – one that prioritises family and work over lodge meetings and dinners. So it’s no coincidence that Sam, Alastair Chambers and Anthony Henderson were chosen to provide a glimpse into the life of a Freemason.
‘We were concerned about presenting Freemasonry in an honest way, so it was paramount that we cast real, everyday people,’ explains Cheney. ‘Sam, Alastair and Anthony were ideal examples. They are just three interesting, friendly guys from completely different backgrounds who share a great set of values.’
The national response to the casting note was overwhelming, and a UGLE panel was tasked with the job of whittling down the one hundred and fifty applicants to a shortlist of thirty. After interviewing candidates on camera, the panel finally decided on these three. So began a busy winter of filming, which saw the crew trailing the length of the country to capture the starring masons and their families at home, at work, and even in the local pub.
The sets ranged from a living room in Bedfordshire to a windy rugby field in Gloucester. And although the project was storyboarded, Cheney reveals that ‘it was completely unscripted; our masons provided all of the content, which was then brought to life by the fantastic crew’. The improvised dynamic was something that Anthony, a Freemason of thirty-one years, found particularly challenging: ‘I was apprehensive,’ g he recalls, ‘but Freemasonry has given me so much over the years, I’m just glad I could finally give something back.’
‘We were concerned about presenting Freemasonry in an honest way, so it was paramount that we cast real, everyday people.’ Lee Cheney
Giving back is a key feature of masonic life. With The Freemasons’ Grand Charity donating more than £100 million to a wide range of causes since 1981, the film shines a light on the Craft’s enduring history of charitable initiatives. We meet Ian Simpson, the founder of one such venture, Teddies for Loving Care – a charity that gives teddy bears to children visiting A&E. And we hear from nurses and families who explain the therapeutic effect a teddy bear can have.
While it’s unsurprising that charity is important to a society where kindness, honesty, tolerance and fairness are core values, myths continue to abound about Freemasonry. ‘The truth is, it’s open to everyone,’ says Sam. ‘It’s not a closed door society – anyone can visit the lodges.’ As the film shows, even Freemasons’ Hall in London plays host to a wealth of external events, including the catwalks of London Fashion Week.
In its quest to challenge preconceptions, the film shows masonic life to be more multifaceted than many could have imagined. It presents a community that is all at once passionate and accommodating, modern yet historical – and always welcoming.
Meet the stars
Twenty-three, joined Portus Felix Lodge, No. 6712, in Yorkshire three years ago. When he’s not away at sea working as a Merchant Naval Officer he counts snowboarding and scuba diving among his many hobbies.
‘Freemasonry is relevant to anyone who wants to become a better person and be able to help others. It’s that simple.’
Thirty-two, joined Via Lucis Lodge, No. 9443, in Gloucester two years ago. He is a father of five, runs a construction company, is partner of a recruitment firm and manages a prison rehabilitation scheme.
‘Although we might all come from different walks of life and have different interests, we all share the understanding that everyone in the lodge is equal. No matter who you are, you will fit in.’
Fifty-seven, joined Russell Lodge, No. 4413, in Bedfordshire thirty-one years ago. As official babysitter for his grandson Finley, Anthony is a master Scalextric racer, although he intersperses track time with a career as a European business manager in the healthcare sector.
‘In the eighties, Freemasonry was surrounded by taboo. Now, thanks to films like this, I hope people will realise it’s nothing more than a social club that’s open to everyone, regardless of age or background.’
Letters to the Editor - No. 27 Autumn 2014
Masons on film
I have just finished viewing your UGLE video. Very nice! It was good to see and hear a young person give his opinions on Freemasonry, instead of ‘old folks’. It was something that we all can relate to – not too long, not too short – just a good, fresh look at an old institution. Well done.
Charles Cameron, Orange Grove Lodge, No. 293, Orange, Grand Lodge of California, USA
I am the Provincial Mentoring Coordinator for West Lancashire, and I’m being contacted by groups wanting to produce extra copies of the excellent DVD included in your last issue. They (and I) see it as a great recruiting tool, and would like to include it in their strategy to further advance membership.
Giles Berkley, Peace and Unity Lodge, No. 3966, Thornton-Cleveleys, West Lancashire
Craft Annual Investiture
30 April 2014
An address by the MW The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, KG
Brethren, I want to start by saying a very warm welcome to you all, and to thank you for re-electing me as Grand Master at the last meeting in March. I particularly congratulate all those that I have had the pleasure of investing today.
Whether you have been appointed to or promoted in Grand Rank, I want to emphasise that two of your key tasks are recruitment and retention. It has become clear from the research carried out by the Membership Focus Group chaired by the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes that these tasks are more important than ever before. I am particularly concerned to hear that very few members recruit at all, and that there is an unacceptably high loss rate after each of the three degrees and indeed during the first ten years of membership.
The Membership Focus Group has been formed to analyse the statistics and to make proposals to stem the loss of members. It is already clear that the Mentoring Scheme will play a vital role going forward. It is therefore important that Lodge Mentors appoint appropriate personal mentors to look after each new candidate, rather than trying to do all the mentoring themselves. I look to you all, as Grand Officers, supporting the Mentoring Scheme.
Naturally, I expect you will also be good examples to others whatever their rank – not only in your good conduct and supportive approach but also by demonstrating your enjoyment of Freemasonry.
Yesterday evening I hosted a dinner for Provincial and District Grand Masters. The support of and direction from your respective Provincial and District Grand Masters is paramount and I am pleased to hear how closely they, in turn, are working with the Centre, here at Freemasons’ Hall. This inclusive approach is core to the future of the English Constitution.
I continue to hear of the good work done by the Provinces in their local communities and no better example has been the help given to the victims of the recent floods, especially in the West Country. This good work was supported when I recently had the opportunity to visit two Provinces. In Gloucestershire where I also attended their annual service in Gloucester Cathedral and also in Cornwall. I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the members I met in both Provinces.
Finally Brethren, I want to express our thanks to the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the smooth running of the impressive ceremony that you have just witnessed, as well as to the Grand Secretary and his staff for all their hard work leading up to today’s investiture.
From the Grand Secretary
For any of our members to celebrate fifty years in the Craft is a great achievement, and one that is usually commemorated with fellow lodge members and the acknowledgement of the Province or District. However, when our Grand Master celebrated his fifty years in Freemasonry in December 2013, it was an occasion marked by the whole English Constitution. You will, I am sure, be interested to read more about this important event further on in this issue of Freemasonry Today.
Many of you will know that, at the March Quarterly Communication, Sir David Wootton succeeds David Williamson as Assistant Grand Master. We all thank David Williamson for his tremendous contribution during the thirteen years that he has held the role, and wish David Wootton every success in his new appointment. David Williamson’s address at the December 2013 Quarterly Communication is well worth reading.
Now that 2014 is underway and with only three clear years to our tercentenary, I take this opportunity to remind us all of our values of integrity, kindness, honesty, fairness and tolerance. These values apply internally as well as externally. Remember too, above all, that Freemasonry is to be enjoyed.
In this issue, you will read about how Freemasonry enables its members to explore their hobbies and interests while also making new friends. Our profile of Connaught Lodge reveals a community that has been uniting dog lovers, Freemasonry and The Kennel Club for more than one hundred years. We also report on the University Lodges’ Ball, which saw one thousand Freemasons and members of the public come together for a fantastic night that recalled the grand balls of yesteryear.
A feature on Freemasonry Cares shows another side to membership. For David Blunt, accepting that he needed support, after illness left him severely disabled, was a challenge. Encouraged by his lodge Almoner to call the Freemasonry Cares hotline, David now has a new scooter that has given him the freedom to live his life. At the other end of the age spectrum, we look at the work of pregnancy and birth charity Tommy’s and how the masonic charities are supporting its research.
I believe that the breadth and depth of stories in this issue shows an organisation that can hold its head high as we count down to our three hundredth anniversary.
‘In this issue, you will read about how Freemasonry enables its members to explore their hobbies and interests while also making new friends.’
I am delighted to report that the bicentenary celebrations of the Royal Arch in October were a major success. His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent, in his capacity as First Grand Principal, announced that the donated and pledged amount to the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons had reached £2 million.
The members were congratulated by His Royal Highness for this superb effort and the president of the College, Professor Norman Williams, was also present to add his profuse thanks. I believe this milestone event in the history of the Royal Arch has been a wonderful boost to the Order.
At the beginning of the appeal I wrote that we were justly proud to be the major benefactor to the Royal College of Surgeons. The Royal Arch Masons Appeal will further help the College’s successful research fellowship scheme, which supports surgeons in undertaking a research project. The reality is that our contributions will help to save lives and improve the quality of life for us, our children and our grandchildren.
Freemasonry maintains strong relationships across the medical profession. In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we explore how the Masonic Samaritan Fund has been funding groundbreaking research into the genetics of MELAS syndrome, a devastating hereditary condition. And on a more personal note, we chart the life of Dr George Penn, a regimental captain, much-loved country doctor and committed lodge member who was educated at the Royal Masonic School for Boys.
Elsewhere, we report on how Freemasonry and karate are coming together at the Shotokan Karate Lodge, with the humility and respect needed in Freemasonry equally at home in the dojo. David Williamson reflects on a career as an airline pilot and his role in driving the Universities Scheme as he approaches retirement from the position of Assistant Grand Master. And we find out how the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution is helping the older generation cross the digital divide by giving them access to online technology.
I wish you and your family an enjoyable festive season as we look forward to 2014.
‘The reality is that our contributions will help to save lives and improve the quality of life for us, our children and our grandchildren.’
Reading between the lines
Never shy of a controversy, Dan Brown’s decision to launch his new novel at Freemasons’ Hall revealed the bestselling author’s true feelings about the Craft, as Anneke Hak discovered
Freemasons are quietly accepting about the fact that the media and writers can tend to misinform the general public about the goings on behind the closed doors of masonic lodges. However, when a hugely popular fiction writer, who once provoked the headline ‘Does the Catholic Church need to worry about Dan Brown?’, decided to write a book focusing on masonic groups, it was naturally a cause for concern.
As it happened, The Lost Symbol came and passed without much of a to-do as far as Freemasonry was concerned. While dabbling in some colourful descriptions of red wine being drunk out of a skull during the initiation ritual, the book actually depicts Freemasonry as a benign and even misunderstood organisation. So when Brown was in London to publicise Inferno, his latest book in the Robert Langdon saga, Freemasons’ Hall was delighted to be approached about holding ‘An Evening With Dan Brown’, hosted by Waterstones.
‘We see the Dan Brown evening and all other outside events that we do as a means of showing people we are open,’ says John Hamill, masonic historian and a past librarian at the United Grand Lodge of England and Wales. ‘We are here, you can hold events, you can come and go round the building, you can use the library and museum, you can ask questions, and questions will be answered. It is all part of the whole process of being much more public about Freemasonry.’
Although Brown’s books may encourage persistent rumours, which liken Freemasonry to a secret cult, the writer himself is wholly complimentary of the group. He told The Independent before the event that he would be honoured to be a mason. ‘I’ve nothing but admiration for an organisation that essentially brings people of different religions together,’ he said. ‘Rather than saying “we need to name God”, they use symbols such that everybody can stand together … Freemasonry is not a religion but a venue for people to come together across the boundaries of their specific religions. It levels the playing field.’
All in good spirit
John managed to speak with Brown amidst the hustle and bustle before the event. ‘We talked about The Lost Symbol and the hype beforehand, and he said he couldn’t understand it because where he grew up in America, he lived four blocks from the local lodge and knew some of the Freemasons. He said, “Why would I want to attack one of the few organisations that’s still doing good in society?” ’
While Brown often says that the secret societies and groups within his novels are based on fact, with a whole lot of poetic license thrown in for colour, his readers aren’t always able to differentiate between what’s real and what’s added for entertainment’s sake. However, rather than portray the Freemasons as malignant, The Lost Symbol says that the group provides a fraternity that does not discriminate in any way – it is something, Brown argued at the time, that Freemasons should be pleased about. You would think so, too, considering that The Lost Symbol broke a whole slew of records, including becoming the UK’s bestselling adult hardcover since records began, and has been translated into dozens of languages.
Taking centre stage
So would the publicists use the opportunity of a Dan Drown book event at Freemasons’ Hall to garner media attention through the use of mock rites of passage and men in sweeping black cloaks? Thankfully, no. Having attended many events at Freemasons’ Hall, some with Egyptian sphinxes littering the corridors and others with eerie music for ambience, it was gratifying to find that An Evening With Dan Brown was refreshingly simple, drawing on the fantastic building to hold the interest of the budding writers while they waited for the man himself.
The author graciously thanked Grand Secretary Nigel Brown and Karen Haigh of Freemasons’ Hall for allowing Waterstones to use the venue for the event and described spending many hours in disguise at the building completing research for his last book. ‘What a room!’ he exclaimed on entering the hall and stepping up to the microphone.
‘I was actually here maybe six years ago, incognito, doing research for The Lost Symbol. Today, without my dark glasses on, it’s a whole lot prettier. It’s a real honour for me to be here today.’ Dan Brown
John asked Brown about his undercover trips to Freemasons’ Hall and discovered that the author would join tours, asking the librarians a lot of questions on his way around: ‘He said that they were very helpful. They must have wondered who this man was with so many questions.’
Having referenced Freemasonry during his speech, and admired the glorious building, Brown then turned the conversation to the main topic of the night: his latest book, Inferno. Largely inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, which charts a journey through the three domains of the afterlife, the book has already sparked a whole new set of controversies as scholars argue over whether or not the author should be simplifying the historical elements while popularising this epic fourteenth-century poem.
One thing is apparent, however: Brown seems to have given Freemasonry his seal of approval.
Letters to the editor - No. 23 Autumn 2013
Dan Brown at Freemasons' Hall
Whilst sitting waiting for Dan Brown to arrive on 21 May at Freemasons’ Hall, I watched the reaction of the diverse group of people who had obviously for the first time seen your wonderful building. Undoubtedly most were in awe, as well they should be.
For me, being at the Hall had a more poignant resonance. My father was a Freemason and he had taken me up to the Hall on many occasions. Sitting there, I wondered what he would have made of the event where people from all walks of life were able to sit and enjoy the full beauty of the building whilst at the same time listening to a man who had weaved the Freemasons into his stories that have sold billions of books around the world.
As a child I was fascinated by the society simply because my father was a member.
I began to devour any literature on the subject so that one day I could impress him with my knowledge. One day I had the chance and he was speechless. His friends thought he had provided me with the knowledge. I explained that if you want to learn about Freemasonry, the information is readily available.
Now years later, I read some of the nonsense on forums on the web after Dan’s evening and was disappointed how people are still today showing complete ignorance on the subject and not even bothering to research before they put their names to ridiculous statements.
When I mentioned to my friends that I would be coming to use your library for research they were shocked, because they didn’t realise how readily you share knowledge with the public. My father taught me to be open and generous to other philosophies and religions; he joined the Freemasons for all the right reasons and I think in retrospect he would have agreed with your continuing to open your doors to the public – although he may have found the constant chatter in the Hall whilst waiting for Dan Brown a tad tiresome. Ultimately, it was just brilliant to sit and admire the beautiful architecture of the great Hall again!
Lena Walton, Tadworth, Surrey
All aboard the Trincomalee
Built in 1817, HMS Trincomalee is a wooden sailing frigate constructed shortly after the Napoleonic Wars. Following the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, visiting the oldest Royal Navy warship still afloat in 2012, it was fitting that Grand Secretary Nigel Brown would start his visit to Durham Province with a dinner aboard this world-famous vessel in Hartlepool. The Durham masonic group, headed by Provincial Grand Master Eric Heaviside, was greeted at the entrance to the interactive museum by HMS Trincomalee Trust members, and given an insight into the upkeep and restoration of the ship.
It was tremendous to hear the news of the new Royal baby, Prince George. You will be glad that a message of congratulations was sent on behalf of members to Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Talking of good news, it is heart-warming to hear, as I go around the Provinces and Districts, more and more members speaking openly about the fun of membership as they enjoy, each in their own special way, their hobby, Freemasonry. This enjoyment is becoming infectious, helping to both recruit and, importantly, retain members. Together with the increasing support from family members, this is a clear reflection of the success of the current initiatives that are making sure there is a relevant future for Freemasonry.
In this autumn issue, we take a ride with the Showmen’s Lodge to discover that the ties binding Freemasons can also be found in the people who run the waltzers and dodgems at the fairground. We go on the road with a welfare adviser from the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, as she helps a family get back on its feet. We also meet Mark Smith, a Provincial Grand Almoner, and find out that while masonic support can involve making a donation to a worthy cause, it is also about spending time with people in your community.
I mentioned hobbies earlier, and to thrill anyone with a taste for classic cars we get in the driving seat with Aston Martin as it celebrates its one hundredth birthday at Freemasons’ Hall. There is also an interview with Prestonian Lecturer Tony Harvey, who has been travelling around the UK to explain how Freemasonry and Scouting have more in common than you might first think. I believe that these stories and features show why Freemasonry not only helps society but is also very much a part of it.
On a final note, I was pleased to have had the opportunity to speak on Radio 4’s Last Word obituary programme about the late Michael Baigent, our consultant editor. He was a good friend with an enormously inquisitive mind, about which John Hamill writes more fully later in this issue of Freemasonry Today.
‘It is heart-warming to hear, as I go around the Provinces and Districts, more and more members speaking openly about the fun of membership.’
How open should we be?
London's Kent Club continued its series of educational events with a visit to Kent Lodge No. 15, who were receiving a talk by the Grand Secretary, Nigel Brown, entitled: PR: How open should we be?
As this was a lodge meeting, the talk was preceded by work held over from the host lodge's previous meeting: a near-faultless explanation of the First Degree Tracing Board by W Bro Neil Ryce, which was received with great enthusiasm by the assembled brethren, and in particular by the three brethren who had been initiated at recent meetings.
The Grand Secretary then spoke, without notes, for around half an hour on this very important topic.
Most of us know that masonry is becoming more open, but it was good to hear the reasons why masonry had gone underground and become so secretive. And to see the contrast with the late nineteenth century when The Telegraph and other newspapers had their own masonic journalists to cover events on a constant basis as masonic news.
Bro Brown pointed out that that whilst there had been difficulties for some masons with their employers in previous years, Grand Lodge had gone to court to make sure that discrimination would not be tolerated. Questions on application forms, or other singling-out of brethren which could imply discriminatory intentions against masons, had been found by the court to be illegal. He went on to explain that the courts had not only ruled that Freemasonry was not a secret society, but also (in an earlier judgement) ruled that it was not a religion.
He urged us to assist in placing Freemasonry back at the heart of the community, by dispelling myths and incorrect assumptions.
Bro Brown cited an example of a typical conversation between friends and acquaintances at a dinner party where the question of Freemasonry might come up. Yes, he said, the conversation might start off with laughter about rolled-up trouser legs and talk of us being a secret society, bent on world domination or other nefarious objectives, but if these views were politely but firmly challenged, then it might very well end with those in the conversation revealing that their grandfather or uncle had been a mason, and how impressed they were with the tremendous fundraising done by masons!
This brought him to a further point regarding our strong charitable giving: he emphasised that whilst it was of course "blind" and that we did not expect to get anything in return, it was both fair and proper that we should be thanked for the difference our money was able to make and thanked publicly.
Part of engaging with the non-masonic world and being more open is engaging with the media, both traditional and social - and with the example of official tweets being sent from Quarterly Communications, he underlined that UGLE has embraced technological change.
He went on to say that all of the Provincial and Metropolitan Information Officers had been on training courses to equip them for the requirements of the post, including specific television/media training for those who might be called upon to act as spokesmen for masonry. He also disclosed that the title Information Officer was to change to Communications Officer to reflect this change and to underline our openness.
Diverse questions followed from members of all ages and ranks, including how to deal with unspoken disapproval of Craft membership from more senior colleagues being experienced by some junior professionals; whether the reintroduction of public processions in regalia would continue to be encouraged; how to tackle public misconceptions caused by those amongst our own members who themselves appear to be propagating poor information or pandering to sensationalism; and whether the Orator scheme could be developed as an adjunct to openness.
The questions were answered with the same warmth and wit as the delivery of the speech itself, with the underlying theme that we should be as open as we can (although without nullifying the appropriate mysteries of the Craft), thereby helping to overcome mistakes and negative opinions by setting the record straight. In particular, the Grand Secretary agreed that some Brethren had good reason to keep their membership confidential, explained how it is planned to build further upon the success of the public procession at the Lord Mayor’s Show, emphasized that some masons should be more careful not to endorse nonsense, and announced that the Orator scheme is currently being restructured for greater relevance and effectiveness.
The Grand Secretary sat down to prolonged applause, and afterwards joined the Brethren for a fine dinner with good cheer and traditional formalities.