14 December 2011
A speech by VW Bro Graham Redman, Assistant Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill
GFR: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, the Minutes of the Premier or Moderns Grand Lodge for February 1811, record that
The Most Worshipful Acting Grand Master the Earl of Moira having expressed his intention of being installed previous to the Business of the Quarterly Communication this day and having signified his directions to the R.W. Master and Officers of the Lodge of Promulgation for that purpose they assembled at Free Masons’ Hall, at half past seven o’clock and required the attendance of all the Members of the Grand Lodge in the Committee Room to assist in the ceremony of installing the Acting Grand Master. The Lodge was then opened in the First Degree … The Earl of Moira was thereupon introduced … to receive the benefit of installation when the Ancient Charges and Regulations were read … to which His Lordship was pleased to give his unqualified approbation and assent. Such members of the Grand Lodge as were not actual installed Masters were then desired to withdraw and the Lodge was opened in the Third Degree and the Right Hon. The Earl of Moira was installed according to Ancient Custom Acting Grand Master of Mason[s] and duly invested and saluted on the occasion: after which the Lodge was closed in the Third Degree and subsequently in the First Degree and the usual procession being then formed the Acting Grand Master was conducted into the Hall where the Grand Lodge was opened in due form and the Laws relating to the behaviour of Masons in Grand Lodge were read.
JMH: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, it might seem odd to us today that the Acting (or as we would say Pro) Grand Master had not been properly installed. One of the ritual differences between the Moderns and Antients Grand Lodges was that in the Lodges of the former the installation was simply the ceremonial placing of the Master in the chair with no additional signs, tokens or words. Possibly due to their Irish origins, Lodges under the Antients Grand Lodge did have an inner working limited to Installed Masters. The Lodge of Promulgation, which had been set up by the Premier Grand Lodge in 1809 to bring its rituals into line with those of other Grand Lodges, recognised the Installation Ceremony as one of the true landmarks of the Order. Lord Moira’s very public installation was in a sense pour encourager les autres, for the Lodge of Promulgation continued to meet over the next few months to enable Masters and Past Masters of Lodges under the Premier Grand Lodge to receive the benefit of Installation.
GFR: As the final item of business that evening:
The Grand Treasurer moved That the Tickets for the Grand Feast be in future delivered by the Stewards at One Guinea each instead of half a Guinea, which being seconded, an amendment was duly moved that the Tickets should be fifteen shillings: and the Question being put on the said amendment. It passed in the affirmative.
JMH: It says much for the economic stability of the last half of the 18th century that the cost of tickets for the annual Grand Feast had been set at half a guinea (52½ pence in our terms) for more than forty years! Then, as now, the Grand Stewards had the privilege of making up the short fall between monies received from ticket sales and the actual cost of the Grand Feast. Clearly the difference had become onerous by 1811 and this motion by the Grand Treasurer John Bayford, himself a Past Grand Steward, sought to redress the situation. Grand Lodge, as was to often happen in the 19th century, agreed the rise but only at half of the rate requested!
GFR: The only other matter of interest that year was at the April Communication, when
The Grand Lodge proceeded to take into consideration the following motion which was duly made and seconded at the last Grand Lodge, vizt: “That the Thanks of the Grand Lodge be given to Brothers James Earnshaw, James Deans, William Henry White and Charles Bonnor the Officers and to the several other members of the Lodge of Promulgation for their labors respectively; and that a Blue Apron be presented to Brothers Deans and Bonnor, Officers of that Lodge who do not at present possess the same and that they be requested to wear such Apron in all future meetings of the Society. And also that they be considered Members of the Hall Committee.
And the Question being put thereon it duly passed in the Affirmative.
JMH: The work of the Lodge of Promulgation brought the ceremonies of the Premier Grand Lodge into line with those of Ireland and Scotland and thereby with the Antients Grand Lodge, removing a number of potential obstacles to the proposed . Blue lined and edged aprons were restricted to the actual Grand Officers and those who had served in those high offices. As there was no concept of appointing Brethren to past ranks, with the exception of Princes of the Blood Royal who were usually appointed Past Grand Masters within a short time of their being initiated, James Deans and Charles Bonner were singularly honoured by this motion. Deans became the actual Junior Grand Warden in 1812.
GFR: Rather more was going on – though perhaps not much more being achieved – in the Antients or Atholl Grand Lodge. To remind you, in May 1810 that Grand Lodge had passed a threefold resolution setting out its requirements for a with the Moderns: first uniformity of Obligation and Rules; secondly, the Grand Lodge to consist of the Masters, Wardens and all Past Masters of the respective Lodges; thirdly, a monthly disbursement of Masonic benevolence. At its meeting in March 1811, the report of the Committee appointed to meet the Moderns’ Committee was received, setting out the Moderns’ responses to the threefold resolution:
To the First resolution ... That the [Moderns] Grand Lodge had resolved to return to the Ancient Land Marks of Masonry and in order to a perfect of the two Grand Lodges they will consent to the same Obligations and continue to abide by the Ancient Land Marks of Masonry when it should be ascertained what those Ancient Land Marks and Obligations were.
To the Second resolution the Committee of the [Moderns] Grand Lodge submitted .... That a true representation of all the warranted Lodges in and adjacent to London and Westminster should consist of the Master and Wardens with one Past Master from each Lodge that to admit all Past Masters would be inconvenient and if admitted could not be said to be a true and prefect representation of all the Lodges …
To the Third resolution, ... The Committee of the [Moderns] Grand Lodge agreed with the resolutions of the Antients Grand Lodge, the whole of this and all other minor concerns to be nevertheless discussed by a joint Committee of Masters to be chosen and appointed by the two Grand Lodges respectively to meet thereon and finally to conclude and arrange all matters relating to an of the two Grand Lodges.
A resolution that the Antients’ Committee be empowered to accede to such modification or alteration of the second resolution, respecting Past Masters, as might appear to them expedient and necessary for fully accomplishing a between the two Grand Lodges was, after a long and protracted discussion, defeated by a very large majority.
JMH: As I remarked last year when the three resolutions were first proposed in the Antients Grand Lodge, the second resolution regarding the composition of the United Grand Lodge was to cause problems leading to an almost childish reaction on the part of the Premier Grand Lodge. Membership of the Premier Grand Lodge was limited to the present and former Grand Officers, the Master and Wardens of each Lodge and representatives from the Grand Stewards’ Lodge. Membership of the Antients Grand Lodge encompassed present and former Grand Officers, Masters and Wardens of Lodges and all subscribing Past Masters. Not surprisingly, the Antients were not willing to deprive Past Masters of their Lodges of a privilege they had held from the start of that Grand Lodge. When asking the Premier Grand Lodge to explain their stance, the only response they got was that if all Past Masters were included there would not be a room large enough in which to hold meetings of the proposed United Grand Lodge!
At the meeting of the Antients in May a compromise was suggested, whereby those who were Past Masters at 24 June 1811 would continue to have the right to be members of the proposed United Grand Lodge, but after 24 June 1811 only the actual – or as we would say Immediate – Past Masters of Lodges would qualify as members of the new body. As the Minutes record, however, “After some discussion and long debate thereon and the question being put passed in the negative by a large majority”. Back to square one!
GFR: At the September Communication of the Grand Lodge a letter dated 5 June from the Grand Secretary of the Moderns was read, which reported that he had laid before the Earl of Moira and the Moderns’ Committee a letter reporting the decision of the Antients Grand Lodge and continued:
I am directed by his Lordship and the Committee to acquaint you for the information of the Grand Lodge under His Grace the Duke of Atholl that it appears to them wholly unnecessary and nugatory, that any further Meeting between the two Committees should take place at present in as much as the Committee of the Grand Lodge under the Duke of Atholl is not furnished with any sufficient powers to enter into the discussion or arrangements of the various subjects necessary to the proposed as is sufficiently manifest from the circumstance of the Grand Lodge under His Grace the Duke of Atholl having at different times negatived propositions which its Committee had acceded to thereby annulling and frustrating concessions which the Grand Lodge under the Prince Regent had professed itself upon certain points willing to make. I am further directed by his Lordship and the Committee to acquaint you that whenever the Committee from your Grand Lodge shall be invested with the powers specified in my letter of 26th January last the Committee of the Grand Lodge under His Royal Highness the Prince Regent will be most ready to meet and confer with them in the hope and expectation of finding a cordial and sincere desire correspondent with their own, for effecting a of the two Societies upon terms honorable and equal to both.
The matter was then deferred to a meeting of the Grand Lodge held on 9 October, when a Committee was at last appointed – and by a large majority – with full powers to carry into effect the measure of a Masonic , subject to a specific Instruction on the entitlement of Past Masters to attend Grand Lodge.
JMH: Correspondence between Lord Moira and Grand Secretary White shows that his Lordship was becoming increasingly angry at the delays caused by the Antients Commissioners for not having full power to decide matters but having to report back to a quarterly meeting of their Grand Lodge on every small decision. He was conscious that his time was limited as in 1812 he was being posted to India as Governor and Commander-in-Chief at Bengal and wanted matters settled before he departed. It took all of White’s diplomatic skills to dissuade Moira, writing direct to the Duke of Atholl demanding action or a complete cessation of the negotiations. Instead, White wrote the letter we have just heard and in October the Antients agreed a compromise and allowed their Commissioners full powers.
It was perhaps as a result of this, and to limit the number of future Past Masters, that at its meeting on 4th December 1811 the Antients Grand Lodge adopted two regulations which still stand today: that no one could be elected to the Master’s Chair until he had served for twelve months as a Warden, and that no Brother would be entitled to the privileges of a Past Master unless he had served a full twelve months as Master of his Lodge. Previously to this it had been the custom in both Grand Lodges for the installation of the Master to take place twice each year, on the two feasts of St John, and the Warden qualification did not exist. Indeed, under both Grand Lodges it was constitutionally possible for a Fellowcraft to be elected Master, the reasons why today we still say the Master is elected by “his brethren and fellows in open lodge assembled” and why he takes the obligation as to his duties as Master in the second degree.
GFR: 1911 was a relatively uneventful year. In March the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, announced that he was
Commanded by the Most Worshipful Grand Master to inform you that he intends to preside over the Festival of Grand Lodge on the 26th April. I believe that the opportunity which will be afforded by His Royal Highness’s gracious intention is one that anticipates the heartfelt desire of all Freemasons.
JMH: The reason was that at the request of His Majesty the King, the Duke of Connaught had accepted the Governor Generalship of Canada, which would lead to his protracted absence abroad. To meet the expected demand from those wishing to attend, the Investiture was moved to the Royal Albert Hall. A huge amount of work went into the preparation of the meeting, attended by over 6,000 Brethren. Disaster struck! The Grand Master was struck down by bronchitis and held prisoner by his doctors! A loyal address was moved expressing disappointment, wishing him a speedy relief and a safe journey to his onerous duties in Canada. At the June Quarterly Communication a further message was received from the Grand Master in which, inter alia, he said: “It has been a source of deep gratification to me to have held for eleven years that post of Grand Master of English Freemasons, in which my dear brother King Edward VII took such pride, and while I have considered it a solemn duty to carry on his work I have not been forgetful of the great advantage to myself of my association with the Craft. Wherever I have been I have felt that proud assurance that I had you watchful sympathy and interest in my welfare. I know that scarcely a day has passed on which bodies of Freemasons, all over the Empire, have not wished me well at their Festive assemblies and listened with sympathetic attention to kind words which have been said about me. I can assure you Brethren, that I have not regarded all this as mere formality and that I have attached the highest value to your personal and fraternal goodwill.”
GFR: In June the Board of General Purposes reported that, acting on the recommendation of the Officers and Clerks Committee, it had resolved
to recommend to Grand Lodge that the salary of the Grand Secretary be increased to £2,000 a year, as from the 1st January last, on the understanding that such increase shall not be considered as a permanent endowment of the office of Grand Secretary but solely as a personal recognition of the services which have been rendered to Freemasonry by the present Grand Secretary.
The Report of the Board was taken as read and confirmed, the recommendations contained therein adopted, and the Report entered on the Minutes.
JMH: Until 1909 the appointment of staff from the Grand Secretary downwards, their terms, conditions and salaries had all been debated in Grand Lodge. The setting up of the Officers and Clerks Committee of the Board in that year removed much of the debate, except for additional finance, out of Grand Lodge. The Grand Secretary, Sir Edward Letchworth was indefatigable and much liked, hence the ready agreement to the motion. The present Grand Secretary might be interested to know that the purchasing power of £2,000 in 1911 equates to over £150,000 today!
GFR: The year ended with some sad news: the death of W Bro Henry Sadler, first the Grand Tyler and then the Librarian and Curator of the Grand Lodge, and therefore in the latter capacity one of the predecessors of my co-presenter, who can pay a far more eloquent tribute to him than I could hope to do.
JMH: My co-presenter is, as always, correct! (Laughter) Henry Sadler is one of my Masonic heroes. Indeed it could be argued that had he not worked at Freemasons’ Hall I might well not be standing before you today. Sadler joined the staff in 1865 as an assistant to the Grand Tyler, being appointed to that office in 1879. As Grand Tyler, in addition to ceremonial work, he was responsible for the running and letting of Freemasons’ Hall and was provided with an apartment in the building. Fascinated by history he spent most of his spare time searching cupboards and cellars locating all the archives of the two previous Grand Lodges, the United Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter. When in 1887 the Board revived the moribund Library and Museum with the Grand Secretary as nominal Librarian, Sadler was appointed sub-Librarian and quickly set to, expanding the collections. He quickly became known to the growing group of Masonic historians both at home and abroad, all of whom acknowledged his help and knowledge. When the house next door to Freemasons’ Hall was acquired in 1904 for additional office space, such had been Sadler’s work that the main rooms were set aside as a Library and Museum. His work was crowned in 1910 when he was appointed the first Librarian and Curator of Grand Lodge and was elected Master of the renowned Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076. The many tributes to his memory praised his kindness, helpfulness and great willingness to share with others what he had learned from the treasures under his care. He was certainly one who “lived respected and died regretted” and, one hundred years later, Masonic historians still revere his memory.
When Freemasons’ Hall hosted the launch party for West End musical Rock of Ages, Anneke Hak slipped past the celebrities to find out what goes on behind the scenes
Jeremy Clarkson schmoozes with paparazzi on the purple carpet while Ronnie Wood’s ex-wife Jo Wood mingles with friends in the foyer. Glasses clink together, Champagne flows and loud chatter fills the room as the band takes centre stage in the Grand Temple. All the while, everyone is wholly oblivious to the fact that just one hour ago their spectacular venue, Freemasons’ Hall in London’s Great Queen Street, was a picture of organised chaos.
Having hosted some of the biggest events in the British social calendar, including London Fashion Week catwalk shows, Freemasons’ Hall isn’t afraid of glitz and glamour, it oozes it. However, the Rock of Ages launch party was a very different beast.
On 28 September, the production team had only a three-and-a-half hour slot between the departure of 700 Freemasons visiting from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Hertfordshire at six in the evening, and 1,000 party guests arriving at 9.30pm. In this small time frame, they had to transform the building into a venue fit to celebrate a musical that takes audiences back to the times of big bands with big egos playing big guitar solos and sporting even bigger hair. The Grand Temple in Freemasons’ Hall needed to be fitted out with a dance floor, disco ball and stage for a rock band to perform on. No mean feat, especially considering how precious the Grade II-listed building is to hundreds of thousands of Freemasons.
Helping smooth the proceedings was Lee Batty, Production Manager at Stoneman Associates. As Freemasons left the Grand Temple, Batty’s team moved in, quickly assembling their scaffolding to start the mammoth task of hoisting the lighting and glitter ball 93ft to the top of the Temple roof, before focusing their attention on the dance floor and rock band sound check. ‘We did a little bit of prep work the day before,’ Batty reveals. ‘Well, I say a little bit, we worked eight hours to programme all the lighting, and then when we got into the venue we had to go hell for leather to get it all up and working.’
Technicalities of transformation
Of course, moving scaffolding, heavy lighting and sound equipment around an 80-year-old building, and one of the finest Art Deco creations in the country, can prove challenging. ‘I’ve not worked at Freemasons’ Hall before,’ says Batty, ‘but I’ve done events in historic palaces and English Heritage properties over the years. So I’m aware that you have to look after furniture and any element of the building that’s been there for a long time – you have to be very careful.’
As a result, every little detail is thought about months in advance, and some elaborate ideas are thrown straight out. Karen Haigh, Head of Events at Freemasons’ Hall, explains, ‘There was talk about hanging some Harley Davidsons from the ceiling at one point. I feel anything is possible, so long as I know it’s going to be safe.’
As the last piece of purple carpet is laid, the Rock of Ages signs go up and the façade of the glorious building is lit from below, Matthew Quarandon, Director of Moving Venues, makes sure all of his staff are in place to welcome the guests with food and drink, and one thing he can’t help but notice is how easy-going everything is. ‘Freemasons’ Hall seems to be very liberal,’ says Quarandon, who’s used to working in old, protected properties. ‘They’re allowing us to push cages across old stone floors and serve red wine on their marble floors upstairs.’
Most excited about tonight’s event has to be Grand Secretary Nigel Brown, who praises the great job Karen Haigh does booking events for the Hall and thinks these nights are the perfect opportunity to show the public that Freemasonry isn’t about secret handshakes. ‘Can you imagine, you’re at a dinner party and the lady next to you says, “You went into Freemason’s Hall? What did you go in for? A fashion show!”’ laughs Nigel. ‘It’s breaking all these myths and, although being teased about Freemasonry doesn’t matter much, people are often making a decision based on false impressions. I think hosting these events is changing people’s preconceptions.’
Batty admits that the mystery surrounding the organisation is a great reason to hold events like the Rock of Ages party at Freemasons’ Hall. ‘It’s nice that people come in and see it in a different light,’ he says. Karen Haigh agrees: ‘The best thing about it is that you bring a group of people that have never been in the building before and they come in and say, “Oh, wow!” It’s like opening a little package.’
So, after months of planning, which began back in June, how does it feel when it all finally comes together? ‘You get a massive buzz from the final product,’ admits Batty. ‘The response that we got when we opened the main doors to the Grand Temple was worth all the pressure.’
As the guitar amplifiers and purple carpet are packed up and glasses of half-drunk Champagne cleared away, all the hard work and preparation has paid off – the Rock of Ages launch party has been a brilliant success. So, the only question left now is when’s the next one?
The group visited St George’s Hospital to see the work of the Think Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation supported by the District Grand Lodge of Bombay. The foundation coordinates and collects more blood than any other non-governmental organisation in Mumbai. It also runs the only structured programme for prevention of thalassaemia major, a serious genetic blood disorder where survival is dependent on lifelong blood transfusions. Vinay Shetty, vice president at the foundation, gave an address at the hospital to the English visitors, who then toured the hospital with Bombay District Grand Master Percy Driver.
Since the mid-1990s, the internet has had an increasing impact on culture and commerce; as the majority of our members now communicate electronically with the rest of the world, their expectation is to be able to do just that with their lodges and with us. With that in mind, I am reminded of the challenges we face in aligning ourselves to that expectation.
Two constant drivers to our thinking are: first, how best to ensure our members are kept informed and feel included; second, how best to communicate with the non-masonic community so that we put the correct information about us out there. In 2009, the main UGLE website was relaunched to provide information about the Craft for the non-mason. That site has proved to be a great success, with an average of thirty thousand visitors a month over the last six months; 58% via search engines; 25% via referral sites and the rest through direct traffic.
However, this site, though very useful to existing members, was not designed for them specifically. On that understanding, the Board of General Purposes decided to have a second site developed, dedicated to the membership. It is this members’ site that we have had great pleasure in officially launching in 2011. The platform is the old Freemasonry Today magazine site and we have maintained that website address: www.freemasonrytoday.com. The benefits of this site are that it is article-based, and it will include many more stories and features than we have space for in the printed magazine. In particular, it allows us to be timely with getting news to you and our response to real time events.
An attractive feature of the website is that all members can submit articles for potential inclusion and an especially useful aspect is that it will allow us to conduct surveys and polls among the membership, gauging their opinions on selected topics. Additionally, the current issue of each magazine will be available to view as a digital copy on the site.
We realise that many members, especially the younger ones, prefer to read the magazine digitally, rather than receive the printed copy. With this in mind, we have now added a digital subscription facility so that members who wish to, will receive an email alert when each new edition is available on the site. This digital subscription is also available to non-members.
We are extremely pleased with the number of lodges now launching their own websites and seeking an UGLE charter mark – a mark of Grand Lodge approval. The sheer number of lodges applying for a charter mark has meant that we have a backlog, as we carefully check each one for technical and masonic compliance. To overcome this, we have updated the UGLE guidelines for lodge websites to better reflect the ever-changing online landscape.
We live in very exciting times and I hope that you find the new members’ website both useful and interesting as it continues to evolve over the many years to come.
Good friends and neighbours
The Friends of the RMBI charity ball raised £35,000 for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution's The Good Neighbour Fund
With the ball held in June at the Grange Hotel in London, a cheque was presented to the President of the RMBI, Brigadier Willie Shackell, by Grand Secretary and President of the Friends of the RMBI, Nigel Brown.
The Friends of the RMBI was formed in 1973 with an annual charity ball to provide extra funds for Thee Good Neighbour Fund. Over the years it has raised more than £550,000.
It’s probably fair to say that Freemasonry in Monaco has been low-key for a number of years, following its conditional acceptance by the Monégasque authorities in the first half of the twentieth century.
The Port of Hercules Lodge was formed in 1924 under the English Constitution, and many Monégasques who wished to become Freemasons sought membership outside the principality. In more recent years, three lodges were formed under the German Constitution, but it became apparent that the Monégasques who had joined lodges in France would like one of their own. Accordingly, the first steps were taken three years ago to establish a Grand Lodge in Monaco, and this meticulous planning came to fruition on 19 February in Monte Carlo.
The Grande Loge Nationale Regulière de la Principauté de Monaco was formed by seven lodges, one formerly meeting under the English Constitution and three each under the German and French.
The consecrating officer was Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, assisted by the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Germany, Rüdiger Templin, as Senior Warden; and the Past Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of France, Jean-Charles Foellner, as Junior Warden. The ceremony was directed by Oliver Lodge (Grand Director of Ceremonies) with the help of Nick Bosanquet and Sebastian Madden (Deputy Grand Directors of Ceremonies) and Malcolm Brooks (Grand Tyler). The team from UGLE also included Nigel Brown (Grand Secretary), Alan Englefield (Grand Chancellor), Reverend Dr John Railton (Grand Chaplain) and Ron Cayless (Grand Organist).
The consecration ceremony proceeded without a hitch, and included the unveiling of the lodge boards, the familiar scriptural readings from the Bible, the symbolic use of corn, wine and oil, and the censing of the lodge and its officers. It was conducted almost entirely in English, but the Rulers-designate took their obligations in their own languages. Jean-Pierre Pastor was installed as the first Grand Master, and he then appointed and installed Claude Boisson as Deputy Grand Master, and Rex Thorne, Knut Schwieger, Renato Boeri and John Lonczynski as Assistant Grand Masters.
Other Grand Lodges were represented by more than a hundred delegates and many presented gifts to the newly installed Grand Master, including a magnificent ceremonial sword from the United Grand Lodge of England. The new Grand Master appointed and installed his officers, before the UGLE team withdrew, leaving the Grand Master and his new team to complete essential business. Monaco’s Grand Lodge had been launched in splendid style.
As Letchworth marks its one-hundredth year, John Hamill reports on the centenary of a very special lodge
On 28 March 2011 in Lodge Room No. 10 at Freemasons’ Hall in London, almost 150 brethren gathered for an emergency meeting. Nothing unusual in that – until you look at the signature book and discover that those present included the Pro, Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters, the Metropolitan Grand Master for London, the President and Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, the Grand Chaplain, Grand Secretary, Grand Director of Ceremonies, Presidents of the Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund, and other senior brethren.
What, you might wonder, other than a Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, would bring such illustrious company together in one tyled meeting? The reason is a joyous one – to take part in the centenary celebrations of Letchworth Lodge, No. 3505. But why such eminent brethren for a Hertfordshire lodge? The answer, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is all in a name. The ‘Letchworth’ after which the lodge was called is not the delightful Hertfordshire town, but Sir Edward Letchworth who was Grand Secretary from 1892 to 1917. As for why the celebrations were in London, when the membership of the lodge was formed in 1911, it was restricted to the permanent clerks in the Grand Secretary’s Office. And even today is limited to those employed in the capital’s masonic headquarters.
Although a Secretary to the Grand Lodge was appointed in 1723 (becoming Grand Secretary in 1734) and the premier Grand Lodge had a permanent building in Great Queen Street from 1775, it was not until 1838 that the Grand Secretary’s Office came into being. From the of the two Grand Lodges in 1813 until 1838, the Grand Secretaryship was a joint office shared by William White, who had held the same office in the premier Grand Lodge, and Edward Harper, who had been Deputy Grand Secretary of the Antients.
In 1838, Harper ‘retired’ and White was asked to take on the role of Grand Secretary. He agreed but on one condition: that Grand Lodge employed two full-time clerks to assist with paperwork. As a result of the expansion in members and lodges in the Victorian period, by the time Letchworth became Grand Secretary in 1892 the office had grown to seven clerks. As they had to be Master Masons it was suggested they should have a lodge. There was one problem: nine was the minimum number of petitioners and there were only seven clerks.
By 1911, there had been an expansion of the Craft and clerk numbers grew to 15. They approached Letchworth to petition for a lodge, and the consecration took place on 28 March 1911. Sir Edward himself was the Consecrating Officer, assisted by the President of the Board of General Purposes, the President of the Board of Benevolence (now the Grand Charity), the Grand Chaplain and Grand Director of Ceremonies and the Chairman of the Board’s Officers and Clerks Committee.
Sir Edward stated that the lodge’s purpose was ‘to meld the clerks into greater harmony’. It would also assist Grand Lodge by bringing into Freemasonry suitable candidates that might become clerks in the office; and get brethren through the Chair in a reasonable time for additional duties. The latter was important, as many lodges had more than 100 members and it could take 15 or more years to reach the Chair.
The lodge’s first year was a busy one with two candidates and three installations. The Master designate had been installed at the consecration and at the July and November meetings two of the senior clerks were installed. In 1913, the lodge began a practice that was to continue until the 1970s – that of initiating as serving brethren members of the portering and maintenance staff of the Hall. They were to assist the Grand Tyler by laying up the lodge rooms and acting as Assistant Tylers whenever Grand Lodge met.
The First World War halted progress of the lodge and office, as half the staff were on active service. Only one did not return, Ponsonby Cox, and another, Guy Mercer, was awarded the Military Cross. Those too old for military service kept the lodge and office going. To help in the office, the rule requiring clerks to be Master Masons was put into abeyance and three lady clerks and two ‘lady typewriters’ were taken on. The latter, Miss Haigh and Miss Winter, proved far from temporary, spending the rest of their working lives as private secretaries to Grand and Deputy Grand Secretaries.
The huge increase in the Craft four years after the war, and the plan to rebuild Freemasons’ Hall as a permanent war memorial, led to an increase in office size. Between 1925 and 1927, five boy clerks were taken on as ‘temporary’ staff ; each of them eventually becoming members of the lodge. There were similar problems during the Second World War, when again the rule on clerks being Master Masons was set aside and women were taken on. They proved so popular and useful that in 1949 the rule (No. 33 in the current Book of Constitutions) was put into abeyance. The lodge had difficulties meeting and reduced its wartime gatherings to two per year. The only ceremonial work was the annual installation of the Master.
The immediate post-war years saw an enormous growth in the Craft. This led to expansion of the office and an increase in the membership of the lodge. Much of the work was in making serving brethren, as the portering and maintenance staff had also grown, and many took on additional work as Tylers for lodges meeting at Freemasons’ Hall.
By the late 1960s, however, things were slowing down and doubts were expressed about the future of Letchworth Lodge. Membership had been limited to Permanent Clerks, but in 1977, Grand Secretary James Stubbs was approached about opening the lodge to the full office, to which he agreed. In the early 1980s, under Grand Secretary Michael Higham, the lodge was opened to the whole of the male staff at Freemasons’ Hall and the staff of other masonic headquarters in London. This has resulted in a vibrant lodge with a steady stream of candidates. The changes have also brought the staff of the various masonic offices in London closer together. Sir Edward Letchworth’s hopes at the consecration can truly be said to have been achieved.
As the Grand Secretary’s lodge, Letchworth has had great support from Sir Edward and his successors. Sir Philip Colville Smith became an honorary member when he became Grand Secretary in 1917. (Sir) Sydney White joined the lodge when he was appointed Chief Clerk in 1918, was its Master in 1920, and was a regular attendee even after election as an Honorary Member when he became Grand Secretary in 1937. (Sir) James Stubbs was elected an Honorary Member when he was appointed Assistant Grand Secretary in 1948, while Michael Higham became a joining member when appointed Deputy Grand Secretary in 1978, and is still active. Nigel Brown joined when he was appointed Grand Secretary in 2007 and members are delighted to have him as their Centenary Master. He was thrilled to have been installed by Michael Higham.
Being involved in central masonic administration, the members of the lodge were only too aware of the privilege extended to them to have the Pro Grand Master present the Centenary Warrant. The happy occasion was followed by a reception and banquet in the Grand Temple vestibules.
Welcome to the Summer/Autumn edition of Freemasonry Today. I first want to thank Michael Baigent who has retired, on behalf of all the readers, for the great job he did for us as editor of this magazine. I am delighted that he remains consultant editor and our thoughts and best wishes are with him in retirement. I would also like to thank Bill Hanbury-Bateman and Geoffrey Baber, who have retired from the Board of Grand Lodge Publications, for their enormous contribution to the magazine. I particularly wanted to highlight their tireless support during the merger of MQ magazine and Freemasonry Today. A merger that has evolved into the fantastic magazine we have today.
The first of the newly designed issues has been met with acclaim. What is particularly gratifying is the feedback from several members whose wives or partners have been interested enough for the first time to read the magazine and enjoyed it. One member even told me that, having read the magazine, his wife – for the first time – supported him being a Freemason. This underpins our core philosophy that we should strive for the important support of our family and friends through open communication.
It is wonderful news that our new members’ website was launched at the end of July. This covers the magazine and latest news from around the Provinces and Districts. So we now have in our communications armoury the magazine, the members’ website – which is an open site – and the UGLE main site designed to direct the non-mason for more information.
We have a great cross-section of articles in this issue for you and your family’s interest. A balance has been sought between current stories and historical features to show how our past connects with our present.
For example, with the Rugby World Cup returning to New Zealand, you can read about the origins of the game to see why the principles that bond the Craft together have historically drawn rugby players from across the world to Freemasonry. Meanwhile, find out how brothers Mathew and Christian Cleghorn from Lewis Lodge managed to row across the Atlantic Ocean. Follow how they contended with lost rations, a capsized boat and a bird called Elton – in order to raise much-needed funds for Parkinson’s UK.
On the subject of fund-raising, there is a fantastic profile of two classic Ford enthusiasts Marc and Lee Lawrence. Freemasonry has been the driving force behind this father-and-son rally team who embarked on an epic journey across America in order to raise money for good causes.
Speaking of connecting our past with our present, we recently celebrated ten years of filming Spooks at Freemasons’ Hall. You can read about how the building, built in 1933, has been leading a double life for the last decade as both the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England and MI5’s fictional home. We are delighted that the building has become such a recognisable icon in the show. As programme producer Chris Fry recalls when he was shooting an episode: ‘I was on the phone and this couple walked past the front doors. One of them casually said, “That’s the Spooks’ headquarters.” I thought that was brilliant.’
14 September 2011
A speech by the VW The Grand Secretary Nigel Brown
Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master and Brethren,
Like it or not, we are in an age of electronic communication! The task I have been set today is to bring you up to date with how we are attempting to align ourselves to the new age of electronic communications in general and, specifically, to let you know about the exciting new members’ website.
First, I ask you all to cast your minds back twenty five years and just think for a moment, how many members of your mother lodge were using computers or, indeed, if the lodge secretary even possessed a computer!
How dramatically different it is today, and certainly since the mid 1990s? The internet has had a radical impact on culture and commerce, including the rise of near instant communications by electronic mail, instant messaging and the world wide web, with its discussion forums, blogs and social networking. The internet continues to grow, driven by even greater amounts of online information and knowledge.
Communication has changed radically in those twenty five years, as you know only too well from your own experience. One of the knock on effects for us is that the majority of our members now do communicate electronically and, what’s more, are expecting that to become the regular way to communicate with their lodges and, here with us, at the centre. With that in mind, I am reminded of the challenges we face: in aligning ourselves as closely as possible to that expectation. From a quote made by John Maynard Keynes, the eminent economist, who spearheaded a revolution in economic thinking, “the difficulty lies not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones”.
Two constant drivers to our thinking are: first, how best to communicate with our members so that they are both informed and feel included; second, how best to communicate with the non Masonic community so that we combat the myths and put correct inaccurate information about us out there, to be picked up by the increasing number of search engines.
Here is a flavour of what we are trying to achieve.
In 2009 the main UGLE website was re-launched. The driving force behind this was to provide information about the Craft for the non mason and, in particular, to attract potential candidates. It is also meant to be a public relations tool for people to understand more clearly what we are all about. That site has proved to be a great success, with an average of 30,000 visitors a month over the last six months; 58% of those coming via search engines; 25% through referral sites and the rest through direct traffic. However, as I stated earlier, this site, though very useful to existing members, was not designed for them specifically. On that understanding, the Board of General Purposes was minded to have a second site developed, dedicated to the membership. Let me be crystal clear! This site, as with the UGLE site, is an open site: no members; only sections; no logins and no passwords.
It is this website, the members’ site, that we have great pleasure in officially launching today. The platform is the old Freemasonry Today magazine site and we have maintained that website address, www.freemasonrytoday.com. The benefits of this site are, that it is article based, and it will include many more articles than we have space for in the printed magazine. In particular, it allows us to be timely with getting news to you and our response to real time events for, example, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis which, I know from experience you are, quite rightly, always keen to know what positive action we have taken say, through the British Red Cross, at a time when it really matters to the people on the ground. For example, if there is one of these natural disasters, we will publish our immediate response on the website, which will then be updated as required. In other words, you will no longer have to wait for the next edition of the magazine to be published.
The website now allows all members to submit articles for potential inclusion. These, in the first instance, go to the relevant Provincial or District Information Officer. He will have been briefed about the key part he has to play, and will make the judgement as to whether it merits inclusion, as well as making sure that the Provinces and Districts use articles for their own websites and magazines as appropriate. Having mentioned Information Officers, we have just called a halt to their intranet, largely because of a judgement in the High Court which resolved that permission must be obtained, from the publication itself, if media articles are to be reproduced online. Also because the members’ site will, in many constructive ways, naturally supersede it.
The state of the art software that we are using has the great advantage of allowing instant changes and updates. I believe that you will agree that one particularly useful aspect of the site is that it is going to allow us to conduct surveys and polls from amongst the membership and to gauge the pulse of members’ opinions on certain selected topics. Additionally, the current issue of each magazine will be available to view as a digital copy on the site, as well as back copies of the new version from issue fourteen and onwards. We have also selected articles of specific interest from copies before issue fourteen, the majority of which have now also been moved across on to the new site for your interest.
We realise that many members, especially younger members, prefer to read the magazine digitally, rather than receive the printed copy. With this in mind, we have now added a digital subscription facility so that members, who wish to, will receive an email alert when each new edition is available on the site. This digital subscription is also available to non - members.
We are also extremely pleased with the number of lodges now launching their own websites and seeking a UGLE Charter Mark; a mark of Grand Lodge approval. The sheer number of lodges, to give you an idea, is around one hundred at any given time. Applying for a charter mark has meant that we have a backlog, as we carefully check each one for technical and Masonic compliance, as well as suggesting possible improvements. To overcome this backlog we have updated the UGLE guidelines for lodge websites to greater reflect the ever changing online landscape. Indeed, let us not forget members’ increased abilities. In particular, we are now happy for sites to be launched, publicised and used as soon as the Province or District is happy that they comply with the guidelines. The charter mark will subsequently follow, meaning that lodges are not inconvenienced any more. At the same time we can still, importantly, maintain the rigour of our checks and, most importantly, the critical check for Masonic accuracy. The last thing any of us want is to allow a site to perpetuate the myths. We do also check through sites to make sure it really does work as it was planned. I am glad to report that we are starting to get good feedback from applying lodges about this new improved service.
Brethren, we have several other sites, but I am not going to talk about them today as time does not allow. So I will not be talking about the excellent new university scheme website, backing a hugely successful initiative. Nor will I, therefore, be talking about the four Masonic charity websites, so ably underpinning our freemasonry cares ethic. Nor the Library and Museum and Letchworth's shop sites or, tempting though it is, the pilot mentors’ website that we are currently working on and that will, in time, prove to be a fantastic tool kit for our budding mentors.
I would like to take this opportunity to mention that, on the business side, the members of the Board of General Purposes and the Grand Secretary are constantly looking at the efficiency of our business: dealing with a huge membership organisation to see that it is ‘fit for purpose’. Amongst other business practices, and relevant to what I am saying today, we are about to look at, in particular, the electronic submission of forms and a timely look at electronic payments. We believe, and I know first hand from travelling extensively in the Provinces and overseas, that this will not only help the Provinces but will be most welcomed by our Districts.
Brethren, we live in exciting times. I trust that this brief taster gives you more of an idea of what we are trying to achieve with our electronic communication initiatives, all of them supporting our policy of openness, and the importance we attach to this area. Specifically, on behalf of the Strategic Communications Committee and the Board of General Purposes, we all trust that you find the new members’ website both useful and interesting, from this memorable official launch day forth, as it successfully evolves over the many years to come.