The members of the Lodge of Concord No. 343 celebrated the bi-centenary of its consecration
The lodge was honoured by the attendance of the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence, accompanied by other distinguished brethren, including the Provincial Grand Master, Tony Harrison who was supported by his Provincial team. Also in attendance were 130 members and visitors.
After welcoming the assembled brethren, the lodge was opened in due form by the WM, Ray Thompson, following which, the dispensation calling the meeting was read by the lodge secretary.
Following transaction of the normal business, the lodge was raised to the third degree. The PrGDC, Keith Kemp entered the lodge to announce the attendance of the PrGM, Anthony Harrison. Tony, accompanied by an entourage of acting Provincial grand officers, was admitted and formally welcomed into the lodge by the WM. Salutations were then given under the direction of Keith Kemp.
The Acting Grand Director of Ceremonies, Stephen Blank entered the lodge to announce the presence of the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence, who entered the lodge accompanied by a Provincial escort of distinguished brethren and other grand officers. Salutations were then given under the direction of Stephen Blank.
The lodge returned to the first degree before lodge member, Melvyn Carter, rose to give a short history of the lodge. The presentation proved both interesting and informative and was well received by the brethren.
Stephen collected the bi-centenary warrant from the secretary’s table and presented it to Jonathan for confirmation of its validity. The brethren were invited to rise as the warrant was read to the assembled brethren by the Assistant Grand Secretary, Shaun Christie, who concluded by returning the warrant to Jonathon for him to make the official presentation to the worshipful master. Having accepted the warrant, Ray was then presented with a centenary jewel embellished with the bi-centenary bar.
There then followed a captivating oration, delivered without notes, by the Acting Grand Chaplain, Rev Harry Ross. He began by referring to his school motto, translated as: “Look to the past, look to the present and look to the future.” He reminded brethren that many things change with time and we as individuals should look to avoid repeating the bad things that have happened in the past and seek to improve on the good things that have also occurred. What we do today sets things for the future. Harry concluded his oration with solemn prayer.
The WM then had the pleasure of presenting Tony with a cheque for £2,343 in favour of the West Lancashire Freemason’ Charity. He commented that the cheque was the culmination of a number of years of charitable collecting and giving in the name of that charity that has been carried by the lodge since it announced its intention to begin planning for the bi-centenary. Ray continued by saying that during the last 10 years the lodge had become a Grand Patron of the 2010 Festival donating in excess of £22,500 to the WLFC and, in addition, had passed monies to the Preston Masonic Fellowship and the Masonic hall. A further £7,200 had also been donated to non-Masonic charities that included the North West Air Ambulance, the Girl Guide Association and the Rosemere Cancer Foundation. In summing up, Ray announced that, excluding the cheque that had just been presented, over the last 10 years the lodge had collected and dispersed a grand total of £31,700 to worthy causes.
Ray then announced that although the lodge charitable giving was complete for the evening, the lodge donations were not. He understood that the Masonic hall was about to launch an appeal for funds to help cover the cost of a major and necessary refurbishment of the hall roof. He then invited the Masonic Hall chairman, Terry McGill, to step forward and accept a cheque to the value of £1,000 as the starting donation for the appeal.
At the risings, prior to the formal closing of the lodge, Jonathan responded on behalf of the grand officers, Tony on behalf of the Provincial officers and the WM of the Setantia Lodge of Installed Masters No 7755, Bob Poole, responded on behalf of all the visitors all, of whom commended the lodge on its achievements over the last 200 years.
Later in the evening at the celebration banquet, in response to the toast to the grand officers, Jonathan began by relating some of the events occurring in 1814, the year of the lodge’s consecration; a year when the Times of London was first printed on steam driven presses. He went on to say that this was his first visit to West Lancashire as a ruler in the Craft. He also congratulated Shaun Christie for the excellent manner he had read and delivered the contents of the warrant. Thanks also went to Stephen Blank for his control of the proceedings as the Acting Grand Director of Ceremonies and to the Rev Harry Ross for his extremely powerful and thought provoking oration.
Jonathan continued by reminding brethren of the need to get younger men involved in Freemasonry and that lodges need to recognise and be sympathetic to the demands placed on young men as they develop their working careers. He emphasised that there is no such thing as a Masonic career. As members progress they may be asked to take on a responsibility that they would hopefully carry out to the best of their ability. This may lead to further opportunities within the Masonic community that should in no way be considered as a career path.
Jonathan concluded by saying he was delighted to be with Tony and his Provincial team on this auspicious occasion and wished him and the Province of West Lancashire well for the future. He closed by proposing a toast to the health of Tony that was followed by sustained applause from the brethren.
In his response, Tony thanked Jonathan for his kind words saying he was pleased to welcome him to West Lancashire. He thanked Jonathan and his colleagues, Stephen and Shaun for sparing the time to travel to Preston to attend and take part in the ceremony, a ceremony that represented a special day for the Lodge of Concord.
Tony continued by saying the brethren in 1814 could not have foreseen the future leading to this bi-centenary event. He congratulated the lodge on its achievement thanking the lodge for the support it has given down the years and continues to give to the Preston group today.
He suggested that, in this age of electronic communication, all Freemasons should communicate with Grand Lodge with suggestions and ideas to enable Freemasonry to keep up with the times.
He went on to thank the lodge members for the charitable donation made in the lodge and thanked the Provincial team for their support and attendance.
Tony concluded by wishing everyone all the best for the future and above all to continue to enjoy their Masonry to the full. He closed by proposing a toast to the Lodge of Concord No 343.
In his response, Ray, as the WM, thanked Jonathan for his attendance and the Provincial team for their support with particular thanks to the Provincial Grand Secretary, Peter Taylor, for his response to the numerous lodge requests for information during the build up to the celebration.
Turning to the lodge members he expressed special thanks to Bob Dickinson who, despite recently retiring as the lodge secretary, continued his work in organising the event. He reminded brethren that, excluding Setantia, Concord is the largest lodge in the Preston group and concluded by thanking all the visiting brethren for their attendance.
During the banquet proceedings, to serve as a memento of the occasion, hard backed bound copies of the 200 year lodge history were distributed to all those present.
The evening closed with the Provincial Grand Tyler, Frank Kennedy, proposing the Tyler’s toast.
East Kent goes the extra mile
After five years of dedicated fundraising, the Provincial Grand Lodge of East Kent celebrated the close of its 2014 Festival for The Freemasons’ Grand Charity
East Kent announced that more than £3.65 million had been raised, a total well above the Province’s target. ‘All the money for this appeal has been raised by the members of the Province and I was delighted to announce the culmination of their efforts at our celebratory dinner in Folkestone,’ said Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing. ‘I know that our donation will help to change the lives of thousands of people in need. I am so proud of all our members and their families for their generous support and the huge efforts they have made.’
More than five hundred Freemasons, their wives, partners and friends joined the celebration at Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone in June 2014, including Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence; President of the Grand Charity Richard Hone, QC; and the Grand Charity’s Chief Executive Laura Chapman. Speaking about the Festival, Richard said he was tremendously grateful to the Province and their families for their contributions. With grants totalling millions of pounds each year, the Grand Charity assists thousands of people in both the masonic and wider community. Without the support of Freemasons and their families, this would not be possible.
Together with co-drivers Richard Barrett and Dimas Pestana, Larry travelled the 2,000km journey over 10 days in support of the two charities. During the final leg of the epic journey, the 1914 Model T passed through central London and stopped at Freemasons’ Hall where the trio were greeted by Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, the presidents of the four central masonic charities, and Lincolnshire Deputy PGM John Hockin.
The route was selected as Larry is a member of lodges in Portugal and the Province of Lincolnshire – the latter of which has supported the RMTGB for the past six years and is due to end its Festival appeal this November.
The Association of Medical, University and Legal Lodges (AMULL) celebrated its 12th annual festival at Lincoln’s Inn in London, in the presence of Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, his wife Almudena and Metropolitan Grand Master Russell Race.
This year’s host was the Chancery Bar Lodge, No. 2456, whose meetings are held in Lincoln’s Inn. The day included a lecture: ‘For Valour – The Victoria Cross’, by Mark Smith. An ecumenical service was held in Lincoln’s Inn Chapel, led by the Reverend Alan Gyle, with the address by the Venerable Peter Delaney. This year’s AMULL bursaries went to Michael Mather (Universities Lodge, No. 2352, Durham) and Daniel Glover (University Lodge of Liverpool, No. 4274).
Geoffrey Dearing has been installed as both Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent of the Royal Arch in the Province of East Kent by Jonathan Spence, Deputy Grand Master and Past Second Grand Principal.
The two ceremonies took place at the Winter Gardens theatre and functions building in Margate. Jonathan Spence reminded the companions and brethren that East Kent is his home Province, being a member of Pentangle Chapter and Sir Joseph Williamson Lodge, both meeting at Rochester.
Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence believes that it is vital to show the rest of the world why Freemasonry is enjoyable
I would like to share with you some thoughts on some essential aspects of ‘pure antient masonry’. I am prompted to do this after listening to an interview given by the Grand Chaplain to the BBC in May in which it became clear there are still substantial misunderstandings about the Craft, when frankly there ought not to be.
We need to be absolutely clear when we discuss our pure ancient masonry that we belong to a secular organisation, that is to say a non-religious organisation. This was a point made very eloquently by the Grand Chaplain in his interview. It is, however, a secular organisation that is supportive of religion: it is an absolute requirement for all our members to believe in a supreme being. As the late and sadly missed Dean Neil Collings so eloquently put it, this gives ‘a context and background to the individual’s way of life as they seek to live it’.
Freemasonry itself, as we all know, is neither a substitute for nor an alternative to religion. It certainly does not deal in spirituality – it does not have any sacraments or, indeed, offer or claim to offer any type of salvation. Freemasonry, in fact, absolutely fails to meet any of the tests of what it is to be a religion. The fact that men from different faiths can meet easily in harmony and friendship, without compromising their particular religious beliefs, demonstrates that one of the greatest strengths of the Craft, dating from its earliest beginnings, is that of tolerance. Therefore, to ensure this tolerance remains untroubled, discussions of religion, like discussions of politics, are strictly prohibited.
Encouraging our ideals
Organised Freemasonry, from its beginnings in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries – which was a time of religious intolerance – was always concerned with teaching and encouraging morality. Our forefathers were very aware of human nature and its flaws, particularly those of self-absorption and selfishness. The Craft sought to encourage men to be loyal to their country, to obey the law, to try to be better behaved, to consider their relations with others and to make themselves more extensively serviceable to their fellow men – that is to say their wider communities. In other words, to pursue a moral life. The ceremonies were used as the main means of teaching and illustrating the principles of the Craft: they were, and still very much are, a dramatic and effective set of morality plays.
The Craft, as a secular organisation, remains just as concerned today to encourage these ideals. In today’s language, we can articulate the fundamental principles to which our members subscribe as integrity, honesty, fairness, kindness and tolerance. These are principles that we should be very proud of and we should not hesitate to articulate them, when appropriate opportunities present themselves, to our family, friends and, indeed, the wider community in which we live. We should also make it very clear that we very much enjoy ourselves and what we do. I have no doubt that our principles will appeal to those who are not masons if they are aware of them.
The future of the Craft is dependent on attracting and retaining good quality candidates. Our principles should be attractive to many men of good reputation and integrity. The other side of this coin is that we should therefore be careful in our choice of candidates. This is something every new Freemason is told in the charge after initiation and for a very good reason – unsuitable candidates are likely to damage the Craft in general as well as their own lodges in particular.
Every one of us has an important part to play in articulating clearly what the Craft is and encouraging appropriately qualified candidates to be members. To support this, our strategic communications direction, together with the results from the working party on mentoring, will go a long way to help us to speak openly and in an informed way about Freemasonry. Our success will help to ensure Freemasonry’s long-term future.
Letters to the editor - No. 26 Summer 2014
A word of warning for younger Freemasons: be careful what you wish for! Eighteen months ago as part of the annual visit made by the masons of the southern area of the Province of East Lancashire, one of the younger visitors, Steve Stanley, was making his first visit. He was the Junior Warden of the Lodge of Union, No. 268, from Ashton-under-Lyne.
During luncheon, the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence, spent some time chatting to every brother who was present. When Steve took his turn to have a few words with such an eminent guest, he didn’t miss the chance to ask, ‘Would you like to attend my installation on 16 January?’ There was a pause before the Deputy Grand Master responded, ‘We’ll have to see what is possible.’ And that was that.
The Deputy Grand Master must get similar requests all the time and the other members of the lodge had to work on Steve to convince him that there was little, if any, chance of his actually receiving a visit from such an august Freemason.
However, some sixteen months later it became clear to one or two members of the Lodge of Union that there was a distinct possibility that something special might just be about to happen. On the evening of 16 January, after Steve was presented, it was announced that the Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies sought entry into our lodge! When he announced that Jonathan Spence, the Deputy Grand Master, demanded to be admitted you could have heard a pin drop. Steve looked up and I saw him mouth a few syllables that demonstrated that he understood what was about to happen.
The Deputy Grand Master entered with a small retinue, and as he walked past, he gave the Master Elect a clear and definite wink. Nor did the surprise end there. Right Worshipful Brother Spence accepted the gavel, took the Chair and performed the whole ceremony in a brisk, exact and perfect way that demonstrated to seventy-eight other masons just how it could be done. Steve was well and truly installed. The rest of us saw a ceremony that will not soon be forgotten.
Kevin Hall, Lodge of Union, No. 268, Ashton-under-Lyne, East Lancashire
Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence surprised a young Freemason at his installation
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.
The calling notices for the Investiture meeting on Thursday 20th October were termed 'Special' and how right that proved to be. Many attending would be used to the pomp and ceremony of the annual Provincial Craft and Royal Arch Festivals, but few would have experienced the spectacle served up in the Winter Gardens at Margate that day under the ecellent direction of RWBro Jonathan Spence, Deputy Grand Master, and the careful control of VWBro Oliver Lodge, Grand Director of Ceremonies, and his team. Such a treat has not been served up since 2004 when Michael Robin Bailey was invested, and another is unlikely to be witnessed this decade.
The comment 'that's another one done' was pronounced by one of the distinguished guests on retiring to the East Room after the morning ceremony. He hadn't appreciated that he was passing a secondary staircase which was open to the Kings Hall and his remark was clearly audible to all those assembled within, to their combined amusement. It wasn't just 'another one done' as far as the members of the Province were concerned, it was their Geoffrey Gordon Dearing who had just been invested as Grand Superintendent in and over the Province of East Kent that morning and later after the lunch interval, Provincial Grand Master of East Kent.
The day was very much a Kent affair, as Jonathan Spence reminded the companions and brethren that East Kent is his home Province, he being a member of Pentangle Chapter No. 1174 and Sir Joseph Williamson Lodge No. 4605, both meeting at Gundolph Square, Rochester.
In his addresses Geoffrey Dearing gave tribute to those who had worked to make the day such a success. He acknowledged that he was not yet well known in every Centre in the Province and intended to put that right, but not all at once, so requested all to exercise patience. He remarked that he would never have believed how rapidly one could advance in Freemasonry in just six months!
The evening, held at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, marked the conclusion of a five-year Festival Appeal that included many successful initiatives – from a Provincial lottery, which raised £36,500, to the sale of a range of masonic-themed merchandise.
‘The brethren of Worcestershire, and their wives and partners, have dug so deeply and, through their tremendous support, made a real difference to the lives of so many children,’ said RMTGB president Mike Woodcock.
Those present at the event included the Provincial Grand Master for Worcestershire, Richard Goddard, and the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence. Guests were treated to a range of musical entertainment before the result was announced.
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.