The Pro Grand Master in conversation with Michael Baigent
"Freemasonry is a system of becoming; becoming something better than you are now". Lord Northampton spoke with great enthusiasm. "And above all, Freemasonry is a system which teaches us to be openhearted".Rather than rush through an interview in the midst of a frenetic day at Freemason’s Hall, the Marquess and Marchioness of Northampton invited me to stay at their home in southern Warwickshire, Compton Wynyates, in order that we might be able to discuss Freemasonry in a relaxed and congenial manner. I welcomed the opportunity to see them in the home they love, amongst the countryside where twenty-eight generations of Lord Northampton’s family – the Comptons - in direct male descent, have lived since at least 1204.
Compton Wynyates is settled – or, more accurately, centred – in an artificially levelled and terraced bowl below wooded ridges. From the road, through large gates, the house is visible at the end of a long curving drive. It is a large Tudor country house of pink brick, with steep gables, towers, and a forest of extraordinary slender chimneys, each apparently different with their ornate twists and curves; around the house climbing roses creep up much of the brickwork. An ancient wooden door gives access to a large inner courtyard gazed upon by tall windows; a flagstone path crosses through a lawn and garden. From here the basic house design can be seen; it is built around the sides of a square. Very fitting, I thought, for the Pro Grand Master of Freemasonry. But, as I was to discover, there is much more about this house which reveals that the Compton who built it and his immediate descendants were deeply immersed in something very interesting; even, perhaps, an early form of Freemasonry.
Lord Northampton took me around the outside of his house to show me something curious: a tower stands at the middle of the western face of the house, another stands at the north-east corner and yet another at the south-east corner. We began at the latter: embedded in its Tudor brickwork is a design picked out by much darker bricks. It depicts a key with two bits at the end of its shaft.
We then looked at the west tower: it too had a key picked out in darker bricks, but this key had three bits at the end of its shaft. And at the north-eastern tower there was yet another key but, due to reconstruction in the past, only the shaft was visible. But it would seem logical that this key’s shaft would have held one bit. Were we seeing connections with masonic ritual? The First Degree being marked by the key in the north-east, where today a candidate is placed in the lodge after initiation; the Second Degree marked by the key with two bits in the south-east, exactly where the candidate is placed after having passed through his Second Degree ceremony; and the Third Degree marked by the key in the west with three bits. But why should this be placed in the west rather than in the east where the Master is placed in the lodge? Well, perhaps, as the opening of the Third Degree states, a mason goes to the west to seek the genuine secrets of a Master Mason. Does our ritual preserve some ancient residue, one which gave rise to this curious feature embedded in the walls of Compton Wynyates?
Within the house, a first floor drawing room holds an elaborately carved chimney-piece. By the irregular nature of the curious symbolism it is clear that a message is being conveyed but without the key to the symbols and their meaning, its full extent cannot be established. But this panelling is known to have come from Canonbury House, Islington, the remaining tower of which now houses much symbolic carved panelling and is the site of the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre.
There is something else which also seems to have come from Canonbury: a pair of carved chairs, the first dated 1595, with a design on the seat back showing, through two pillars, a chequerboard floor and an archway entrance veiled by partially drawn curtains. One is encouraged to seek entrance. The second chair, dated 1597, also shows the chequerboard floor but visible through the archway is a Christian cross: curiously, the vertical post is black, the cross-bar is white and there is no figure of Christ on it. In addition, the theme of black and white is repeated in the design. Put these two chairs together and they reveal a progression, a symbolic journey into a veiled mystery. Every indication is that these two chairs were used as part of an Order working a ritual involving a symbolic journey into the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Temple wherein resides the key to the mystery of Golgotha.
I was immediately curious about the owner of Compton Wynyates at the time; what might he have been involved in. Could it have been some sort of proto-Freemasonry? The house had been completed by Sir William Compton in the time of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, both of whose arms appear above the main door. His great-grandson, William, 2nd Lord Compton, later created 1st Earl of Northampton, married the daughter of Sir John Spencer, Lord Mayor of London and owner of Canonbury. Lord Compton had been a friend of Sir Francis Bacon to whom he let rooms in Canonbury for a time. Lord Compton must have been a man of great depth.
"What papers remain from that time?"
"Unfortunately, none relating to the building of this house. They may have been destroyed in the civil war when the house was attacked, bombarded by cannon, and the family expelled. They fled to join the Royalist forces in Oxford."
But the family regiment still survives – now as part of the Sealed Knot society, which re-enacts civil war battles. Lord Northampton, as Honorary Colonel, three years ago led his troops with their black-powder weapons in a smoky re-enactment of the battle for Compton Wynyates.
A Vision for Freemasonry
I broached the subject of the role of the Pro Grand Master: I confessed rather sheepishly that I had little idea of what task this office demanded. Lord Northampton explained: the Pro Grand Master acts on behalf of the Grand Master. The rulers of the Craft, provide the vision, and direction in which Freemasonry moves forward.
"And we have the possibility to create an inspiring future for our Order." He spoke with certitude. "We must look forward with a vision which will re-enchant the Craft. The key of course, is how to get there. The ritual describes the key as the tongue of good report and the future depends on the quality of our candidates!"
He explained though that we cannot ignore our history, "We must look back and see what was in the minds of the people who created this system but we need not become stuck in this investigation. We cannot enthuse people with historical facts alone, people are inspired by experiencing what Freemasonry has to offer them. It is only through participating in the ceremonies that we can turn knowledge into a felt experience."
Of course, Freemasonry is also a large and complicated organisation with an extensive internal hierarchy. Its executive structure is represented by the Board of General Purposes which runs the Craft on a daily basis. But Freemasonry is not like a public company, rather, it is like a shareholders cooperative with the Grand Master representing the interests of the shareholders.
"We need to use best business practices to run the organisation which is there to provide the framework in which the ceremonies can take place. For it is here that the meaning of Freemasonry resides." Our First Degree teaches morality and an understanding of how to act within society. Our Second Degree concerns the importance of knowledge, and our Third Degree leads us to contemplate our own mortality.
This brought us to a consideration of the difference between the form of Freemasonry and its content: "The form", explained Lord Northampton, "is the structure within which the rituals take place. The content is in the rituals themselves." And in these resides the mystery of Freemasonry. A mystery which must be experienced.
It is quite possible for a non-mason to buy a book of ritual and read the words and directions but such a person learns little of value. "The mystery is protected from the uninitiated. We have to take part in the ritual to understand it by experiencing it."
"Freemasonry has an important spiritual significance; even though the rituals have been clouded by later additions, enough remains for us to see what our forefathers were trying to do. What I like is that there is no dogma in Freemasonry – it is not a religion – it says only that if you practice its tenets and principles you will become wiser. Its final goal is the Wisdom and Truth to which we dedicate our hearts. It is a system with philosophical principles which has psychological effects on those who practice it." Lord Northampton pointed out that our three Grand Principles, as stated in the ritual are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. You cannot be openhearted unless in a trusting environment but once you are, compassion is a natural consequence and the pursuit of Truth becomes the quest.
As one of many examples of precisely phrased wisdom in our rituals he pointed to the `long’ explanation of the Working Tools of the Second Degree – that dedicated to "the hidden mysteries of nature and science". This explains to the candidate that,
"To steer the bark of this life over the seas of passion without quitting the helm of rectitude is the highest perfection to which human nature can attain…"
As advice on how to live a fruitful life in an imperfect world, it is all there.
Lord Northampton added, "The point of Freemasonry is to change people; to encourage a transformation through a better understanding of themselves and a better understanding of their place in the Great Architect’s grand design." As the address to the new Master of a Lodge upon his installation explains, a Freemason is one,
"…whose hand is guided by justice, and whose heart is expanded by benevolence".
"Freemasonry has a way of steering you to find the answers. It doesn’t say, do this, or do that; it says, if you do this, then that will happen. You can treat it as a congenial social bonding; you can enjoy it without going into anything deeper for Freemasonry provides a strong support network in an unstable world. But if you want to go further it can point you in the right direction. But your progress is up to you, for within Freemasonry you can only move to a better understanding through your own efforts. This involves sharing your experience with others. There are those who have had deeper insights and can point the way; we must help each other along the path to Self Knowledge." He described a carving on the outside of Bath Abbey which depicts a ladder upon which angels are climbing upwards. The angels above are reaching down to help those below climb higher.
"Freemasonry is a journey: it begins in the First Degree the moment your blindfold comes off. It ends when you discover Truth. The words over the doorway to the oracle ‘Man know thyself’ could equally apply to Freemasonry.
Service to Freemasonry
In his late twenties Lord Northampton used to have interesting philosophical conversations over a pub lunch with his forestry consultant, Bro. Charles Bloor, at Castle Ashby, and it was through the latter’s influence that he was initiated into Ceres Lodge, No. 6977, Northampton, in 1976. And what has been the result?
"Freemasonry has affected my life in many ways but principally it has given me a standard to try and live up to in my every day dealings with others. It has taught me much about human relationships and has developed psychological changes in my character, which have made me more tolerant and compassionate".
"I have had tremendous support from my wife, Pamela, over the last thirteen years. She is as committed as I am to the principles of Freemasonry and the potential it has to help men gain self-confidence and discover more of their true nature."
He has often put his own resources into the service of Freemasonry. He stresses the importance of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at the University of Sheffield to enable scholars to see the social and cultural importance that Freemasonry has had on society. Twenty-five percent of the funds needed to run the Sheffield Centre for three years were donated by Lord Northampton. He also supports the important Cornerstone Society, which focuses upon the spiritual values and philosophical meaning of Freemasonry. Lord and Lady Northampton jointly sponsor the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre, based in Canonbury Tower. This encourages both the study of wisdom traditions and, through its international conferences, the dialogue between academics and academic Freemasons from many different Grand Lodges. This can only be of great benefit to Freemasonry as a whole, as the body of knowledge will be used to inform and inspire the Craft by creating awareness of the potential of this great Order.
Lord Northampton is a man of great generosity of spirit, with an expansive vision. He cares deeply about Freemasonry and, as many who have met him during his frequent visits to Lodges can attest, he knows that the strength and future of the Craft resides in every individual Freemason. We are fortunate to have him in such an important position in the Order. His influence will be far-reaching and beneficial to new generations of Freemasons who are, even now, entering the Craft in order to learn of that mystery which lies at its heart.
Specialist lodges: masonry on the web
Internet Lodge is about to have a Past Grand Master in its chair, as Mark Griffin explains
Few lodges can boast as diverse a range of members as Internet Lodge No. 9659, which has nearly 200 members drawn from 56 Grand Lodge jurisdictions all around the world – truly ‘Masonry Universal’.
The members represent many cultures, religions and Masonic ranks, ranging from plain Master Masons to the very highest levels. Indeed, the next Master of Internet Lodge will be MW Bro. Charles Lewis, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina.
This may be the first time a Past Grand Master of any overseas Grand Lodge has occupied the Chair of King Solomon in an ordinary Lodge of the United Grand Lodge of England. His remarkable Installation will take place at the Masonic Hall, Bridge Street, Manchester, on 17 March 2007. Visitors will be most welcome.
The Lodge is not quite ten years old, but is going from strength to strength. Bro Lewis will have his work cut out for him during his year as there are two Initiates waiting to be balloted for, something Internet Lodge has not done before.
The main business of the Lodge is delivering lectures on topics of Masonic interest and these are available on the site. They range from ritual, to the need for openness and many other topics, including charity. Charity is very important to Internet Lodge, which made a substantial donation to the East Lancashire Provincial Festival and has a custom of supporting a designated non-Masonic charity for three years to maximise the benefit.
Internet Lodge is also a very social Lodge. While the Installation meeting is always in their ‘home’ temple in Manchester, the other two meetings take place in Masonic centres across England and Wales. For 2007 that will be Rugby in August and a Ladies Festival weekend in Cardiff in October.
In fact, each meeting is like a mini-ladies festival. Since most brethren have to travel and stay at least one night to attend the regular Saturday meetings, it has become the custom for them to bring their wives and girlfriends.
The Friday night, therefore, is usually an enjoyable group dinner with friendships being renewed and news being exchanged. The next day, while the brethren attend Lodge, the ‘WAGs’ go sightseeing or shopping and, on occasion, join their men for the meal following the meeting.
Brethren who have heard of Internet Lodge are often surprised to learn there are real meetings, and assume everything takes place on the Internet. For the majority of Lodge members that is indeed the case, since the brethren are scattered all around the globe and travel is not practical or affordable for all.
To compensate, Internet Lodge makes full use of everything the World Wide Web has to offer. There is a large and growing web site continually under development, an active mailing list, and a community area with forums and personal blogs for every brother.
Topics that come up for discussion are very wide-ranging and benefit from the perspectives of brethren from so many different countries and constitutions. You can learn as much about Masonry in a week at Internet Lodge as it would take in a year in a traditional Lodge.
That expertise is being fully exploited by launching a Short Papers Competition under the patronage of Lord Northampton, the Pro Grand Master. Winning entries will be made available on the Lodge web site for downloading and delivering as short lectures in any Lodge in order to advance Masonic knowledge. This competition will be widely advertised in Masonic circles. The Lodge web site also serves Masonry in the wider sense. There is a steady stream of enquiries from non-Masons worldwide asking for help in becoming Freemasons. With their extensive network of contacts within the Lodge, they are always able to put them in touch with someone who can help.
A recent case is that of a candidate being proposed into a Russian-speaking Lodge in Tel Aviv, but it might just as easily be a father and son being initiated into a Geordie-speaking Lodge on Tyneside, both of which have happened.
The private side of the web site enables brethren to book into meetings or log their apologies, select options for the menu for the Festive Board, and even make a contribution to the charity box for that meeting. Members can download copies of summonses and the minutes, there is a long list of Skype names so members can talk to each other for free over the Internet, and there is a photo gallery so they all know what each other looks like.
On the public side, there is an ‘Internet Help Centre’ with information about viruses, email scams and all the other perils of surfing the Net, together with advice on how to protect yourself with links to appropriate resources. There is also some general Masonic information, a library of interesting articles and essays to download, and information and forms for anyone wishing to join the Lodge.
Joining members must be Master Masons, and if they are from overseas, they must belong to a Grand Lodge that is in amity with the United Grand Lodge of England.
They must also have an email address as all Lodge communications, including the sending of summonses, is via email. Full details can be found on the Lodge web site, www.internet.lodge.org.uk
MW Bro Charles Lewis
MW Bro Lewis, 69, was initiated into Port Washington Lodge No. 1010 in the Grand Lodge of New York in 1961. He joined Homer Lodge No. 352 in the Grand Lodge of New York in 1974 and became its Master in 1979. During a long and distinguished Masonic career, MW Bro Lewis has become a member of many other bodies including the York Rite, the Ancient and Accepted Rite, and numerous other Masonic organisations. In many of these his diligence and commitment has been rewarded with very high office, and the ultimate recognition of his Masonic endeavour was his installation as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina in December 2003. He is currently on a number of Masonic Boards in the USA concerned with the needs of the young, the elderly and the disadvantaged.
He said “I am honoured and delighted to be the first Past Grand Master of an overseas Constitution to be invited to serve Internet Lodge as their Master.
“In the nine years since it was founded, Internet Lodge has strengthened Freemasonry across the world. With members in 19 countries around the globe, Internet Lodge can truly be said to be practising Masonry universal.
‘I am also honoured to follow other distinguished Masters of Internet Lodge from England, the USA and the Netherlands. I look forward to following Internet Lodge custom and presenting my Address to the Lodge at my Installation meeting, which will then be available on the Lodge web site.
“Modern technology strongly influenced the founding of Internet Lodge and, using modern technology, I will guide the Lodge in extending the principles of Masonry to its membership throughout the world, whilst also seeking to increase that membership even further”.
The Grand Master attended the celebrations of the Mark Degree as John Hamill explains
History was made at the Royal Albert Hall on 26 October when the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, and the Pro Grand Master, Lord Northampton, in their Craft capacities and regalia officially attended the celebrations of another Masonic Order
The occasion was the 150th anniversary of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, of which HRH Prince Michael of Kent is Grand Master. Over 5,000 attended the ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall, but such was the call for tickets that over 600 others met in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall to watch the proceedings on giant television screens directly linked to the Albert Hall.
In addition to many Mark Masons, the ceremony was attended by non-Masons and ladies, including the Mark Grand Master’s wife, HRH Princess Michael of Kent, and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.
The latter was present as President of the National Osteoporosis Society, to which Mark Grand Lodge, as a tangible celebration of its anniversary, gave a cheque for £3 million. This is to fund a major project to provide mobile diagnostic and treatment facilities to cover areas where reasonable access to hospitals is lacking.
The ceremony also included a PowerPoint presentation on the history of the Mark Degree by Brother James Daniel (Past Grand Secretary of the Craft), the dedication of special banners for the five Lodges which had formed Mark Grand Lodge in June 1856, and a musical interlude provided by the choir of the Royal Masonic School for Girls and two gifted instrumentalists from the school.
The ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall was the culmination of a week of celebratory events including a special exhibition mounted at the Library and Museum of Freemasons’ Hall, a dinner at the Guildhall, and a reception for overseas visitors at the Drapers’ Hall.
A collection of papers was published on various aspects of the Mark by leading Masonic historians under the title Marking Well, edited by Professor Andrew Prescott, of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at Sheffield University.
13 DECEMBER 2006
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
Brethren, we held the first meeting of the Rulers’ Forum here yesterday with representatives of the ten groups and have got off to a good start. We discussed a variety of topics which are relevant to the future of English Freemasonry.
The minutes of the meeting will be widely circulated and I hope that any Brother who has any good ideas for the well-being of the Craft will pass them to the Forum through his local group.
The Centre for Research into Freemasonry at the Sheffield University continues to make good progress. Many of you will have seen reports of the events in the spring, accompanying the opening of the Centre’s new premises, named after the pioneering Masonic scholar, Professor Douglas Knoop, a Past Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076.
The University of Sheffield’s teaching affairs committees have now approved an MA programme in the history of Freemasonry and Fraternalism, the first such degree in the world, which will be launched during 2007-8.
Finally, on behalf of my fellow Rulers, I would like to take this opportunity of wishing you and your families a very happy and peaceful Festive Season and a prosperous New Year.
8 NOVEMBER 2006
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
we have had a busy morning so I will keep my remarks short. I am sure you enjoyed the talk given by E Comp the Rev Elkan Levy and it will have given you much to think about. No-one can be in any doubt that recruitment and retention are the keys to the future prosperity of the Holy Royal Arch.
I have decided therefore to set up a working party under the chairmanship of the 2nd Grand Principal to look at this matter in some depth and report back to me by the end of April.
A day's fishing for disadvantaged youngsters at the home of Lord Northampton was attended by the Grand Master, as Michael Imeson reports
A stiff breeze played down the lake from west to east. The Arctic terns revelled in it as they soared with ease over the ruffled water and made their diving bid to catch lunch.
Dozens of fishermen, young and old, eagerly lined the banks, not so much to catch lunch, but simply to try their hand, in almost every case for the first time, at getting a fish on the hook.
One youngster and his caster caught a staggering 56 perch, roach and bream, another 50. But a lot of others didn’t get a bite. Blame the wind, said some. That is fishing, we were told by others.
It was also fishing with a massive difference: it was a Masonic Trout and Salmon Fishing Club day at glorious Castle Ashby, home of the Pro Grand Master, the Marquess of Northampton, the patron, who also sponsored the event.
And it was a day when the club’s aim of bringing fishing and countryside experiences to mentally and physically disabled people was perfectly illustrated to another most welcome guest, the Grand Master, the Duke of Kent. Both the Duke and Lord Northampton happily donned the club’s cap and meandered along the lake bank, speaking to everyone, young and old, Mason and non-Mason.
The MTSFC, which in turn has spawned the Lodge of Opportunity No. 9777, has in just a few short years extended its reach to give more than 2,000 disabled young people (and some older from day centres) an experience they will surely talk about for many years to come.
Fishing days for the disabled began in Hertfordshire and Middlesex. Now they are spreading across more Provinces. Up to the close of their season in October, the club will have organised 23 fishing days in 10 different Provinces from Essex and London to Berkshire and North Wales.
While the Castle Ashby day was mainly course fishing, the club’s roots are in fly fishing for trout. There were trout – a lake was specially stocked with 200 of them for the day, and several fly fishermen and their young charges – but only 199 of them got away!
So, with Castle Ashby literally as the backdrop on a June day, young Danny from St Neots was casting his line like a veteran in the capable hands of Steve Moule from Southgate, north London. Just along the bank was school friend Stephanie who, it has to be admitted, did have a bit of a habit of casting her line over Danny’s. But they stayed friends, and Stephanie and her caster, Gerry O’Driscoll from the Square and Level Lodge in Ealing, landed five perch.
Gerry summed up his day: 'I have worked all my life and you just plod on and you take no notice of some of life’s challenges… doing this for the children makes my day. Sometimes you go home and have a tear in your eye. Just to see their faces at the end of the day makes it very important. There are some people who take the day off work to come to a fishing day like this. We are giving something back.'
Young Michael from St Neots said: “The fish seem to like the red maggots best. Is it true that some fishermen put the maggots in their mouth to warm them up before they put them on the hook?”
Another fisherman casting his line from a wheelchair said he had enjoyed the fishing – “but I like the people who are helping us to do it.”
Club member Gary Ferris of Friendship Lodge No. 8357 in St Albans, Hertfordshire, is a golfer. Now he is also a fishing fan. “This is my 10th or 11th event like this in the last two years. I have never had a bad experience. We go home with a warm feeling because we know the children have enjoyed themselves.”
After lunch the Duke of Kent handed every participant a certificate, passed to him in turn by the Pro Grand Master, sometimes plunging into the excited crowd of participants to reach a smiling, satisfied, wheelchair-bound person. As the “young guests left in their community coaches, the Club president, Gordon Bourne, reminded us: “All our casters and helpers gain hugely from their experiences during these days.
“Many have not had the experience of witnessing first hand the problems that many of our participants face in their everyday lives, and it is a real education to us all when we spend time with them. We have all become much more aware of the great amount of work that goes on in the specialist schools and centres.”
Freemasonry’s charitable giving is well known, but the club represents the other side of our lives – the time given to worthy causes. When you’ve spent a day like that at Castle Ashby, you’d be hard pressed to find a more worthy cause!
The Club, a registered charity, is entirely organised and financed by Freemasons, and help to fund their activities is always needed. It costs around £50 per head for each participant. The club hopes to expand into more Provinces and is looking for new organisers to start the ball rolling to “catch some more smiles”.
And while the Lodge of Opportunity may be rooted in Hertfordshire, meetings will be held wherever in the country there is an interest. The Lodge can be contacted via its secretary, Warren Singer, on 0208 958 7652.
Michael Imeson is the Provincial Information Officer for Hertfordshire
13 SEPTEMBER 2006
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
Brethren, a very warm welcome to you all and I hope that you have had a good summer break. As we begin a new Masonic season it is an opportunity to think about our priorities.
A lot of effort has gone into attracting quality young men to join the Craft and one initiative which I commend to you is the Universities Scheme, led by a group of Masons under the Assistant Grand Master.
The scheme aims to introduce Freemasonry to undergraduates and anyone else connected to their universities. The Assistant Grand Master has visited lodges in eight of our Provinces already and has appointed a co-ordinator from his central group for each of them.
I hope this scheme will introduce thinking young men into Freemasonry, many of whom might otherwise not have discovered it until much later in life, or possibly not at all. It may also provide an opportunity for members to introduce their sons and nephews to the Craft.
I hope also that the initiatives taken by the Universities Scheme will encourage other Lodges to take pro-active steps to recruit all young men of good standing regardless of their educational background. The recent agreement by Grand Lodge to reduce the fees by half for under-25s, coupled with the proposal by the Grand Charity today to do likewise for its contributions, should act also as an encouragement.
I am grateful to all those who are helping the Assistant Grand Master with this exciting venture and I am sure those Lodges that are participating will find it a rewarding challenge.
As I have said on a previous occasion the annual intake of initiates is not our main problem as long as we continue to introduce only good men into the Craft. Our biggest concern should be the large number of drop-outs who lose interest within a relatively short period of being raised. Retention is therefore the key to our future success.
There are two aspects to Freemasonry. The first is the inner work that is done in the Lodge room in harmony with the other members. For this we must concentrate our efforts on the individual Mason and encourage him to develop those qualities which will transform him into a better person and thereby reflect well on the ethos of Freemasonry.
The outer work is done by practising in his everyday life those qualities he has been taught in his Lodge. Here we must also include his wife or partner and family as much as possible and make them feel a part of the organisation he has joined.
In this way membership of Freemasonry will become accepted as being relevant to the society in which we live by both his family and the popular world. These different aspects of Freemasonry have to be enjoyable albeit a certain amount of commitment and effort is required for both.
Brethren, I have recently convened a Strategic Working Party under the chairmanship of the Deputy Grand Master to consider the role and functions of a Grand Secretary.
They have recommended that the office should be split, with the Grand Secretary having responsibility for matters Masonic and a Chief Operating Officer, who need not be a Freemason or indeed male, having responsibility for the management of Freemasons’ Hall and its services.
The Strategic Working Party has also recommended that the Grand Secretary, while remaining fully responsible for our Districts and Lodges overseas, will have a reduced role in the conduct of our external relations. It is proposed that a new office of Grand Chancellor should be created to oversee our relationship with other Grand Lodges. It is not intended that he should be a paid employee, but he will have available to him a Secretariat and he will be a member of both the Grand Master’s Council and the Board.
It is worth mentioning that the concept is not new and that many Grand Lodges entrust their external relations to a Grand Chancellor. This will in effect mean that the Grand Secretary will be able to concentrate his energies on Masonic matters for the benefit of English Freemasonry in England and Wales and its Provinces and Districts.
These recommendations have the support of the Grand Master’s Council and the Board of General Purposes. Notice of appropriate amendments to the Book of Constitutions will be given in December for consideration by Grand Lodge next March.
We will shortly be starting the recruitment process for the positions of Grand Secretary and Chief Operating Officer.
Finally Brethren, for a little much needed light relief there is to be another Royal Masonic Variety Show in the presence of the Grand Master on Remembrance Sunday, 12th November at the Prince Edward Theatre in Old Compton Street, starting at 7.30pm. Details can be found on the website address atwww.royal-masonic-variety-show.uk7.net.
The site also gives details of the show’s producers and directors who have all been involved over many years in the production of the annual Royal Variety Show. I hope as many of you as possible will attend the event to support the Grand Master and by doing so raise funds for charity. One half of the profits will go to the RMBI and the remainder to other non-Masonic charities.
14 JUNE 2006
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
I have received many favourable comments following the MW Grand Master’s remarks at the April Investiture meeting on the question of charity, and how important it is to make our charity multi-faceted by giving practical help as well as financial aid.
We have many small Masonic charities which do just that and next week the Grand Master is coming to my home in Northamptonshire for an event which is being run by the Masonic Trout and Salmon Fishing Club of which I am a Patron. This charity, whose motto is ‘Smiling in the face of adversity’, organises a day’s fishing with professional casters for handicapped and disadvantaged children at venues all over the country.
It is important that we build on the foundations we laid with our Freemasonry in the Community week by arranging events which benefit our local communities. There is no better way of ensuring the public and potential candidates have a good impression of what Freemasonry is all about than by seeing us helping those less fortunate than ourselves.
Since our last Quarterly Communication in March I have made two trips overseas. On 1 May I attended the annual meeting of the Grand Lodge of New York following which they installed their new Grand Master. They kindly honoured me with their Distinguished Achievement Award [see page 30].
On the last weekend of May I flew to Bermuda to inaugurate the new District Grand Lodge of Bermuda and install RW Bro Robert Rego as the first District Grand Master.
It was a most enjoyable occasion with many Scottish and Irish brethren attending the ceremony and supporting our brethren.
Tomorrow I fly to Dublin for the annual Tripartite meeting between the three Home Grand Lodges.
Bro George Francis, Senior Grand Warden, visited our District Grand Lodge and District Grand Chapter of Cyprus for their annual communication and convocation on 27 May. He attended also the Grand Lodge of Ireland for their annual meeting on 1 June.
Brethren, we are coming to the end of another Masonic season which is a good time to reflect on what has been achieved during the past 12 months and make plans for next year.
I wish you and your families a happy and peaceful time over the summer and look forward to seeing you all again in September.
ROYAL ARCH ANNUAL INVESTITURE
27 APRIL 2006
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
I welcome you all here this morning for what is surely the highlight of the year for Royal Arch Masons and I congratulate all those I have invested with their new ranks. Those of you who have just been invested for the first time will realise that the honour of being appointed a Grand Officer brings with it certain responsibilities.
The most important of these is to promote the Order to potential candidates. The Craft initiated 8,862 men last year and all of them will soon be eligible to join the Royal Arch. The number of Grand Lodge certificates issued since the millennium has fallen on average by less than 1% per year. Unfortunately, the figures for the Royal Arch are not so good.
8 MARCH 2006
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
I would like to say something about the proposal to create The Rulers’ Forum and why I believe such a body will have an important role to play in the future. When the old Board of General Purposes was transformed into the new much smaller one, it was thought advisable to create a General Council, under the chairmanship of the President of the Board, to retain that wealth of knowledge and experience which the former members had acquired over many years of service.
It did not succeed for a variety of reasons and is now a standing committee which has not met for some years. The Associated Masonic Provinces is a much older body, and although it has performed some useful functions for the Craft and has come up with many innovative ideas, it has struggled to be heard.
The Rulers’ Forum would, in effect, unite both the General Council and the Associated Masonic Provinces under the chairmanship of the Grand Master. Although it will have no powers, as such, it cannot fail to have considerable influence, comprising, as it will, the High Rulers, the President and Deputy President of the Board and the President of the Committee.
Of the remaining members, two-thirds will be elected to represent the Provinces and London, while one-third will be appointed by the Grand Master. Its role will be to debate some of the issues facing us at this time, and to encourage brethren with good ideas to air them in a spirit of fraternal co-operation. I am excited by the creation of such a representative body and hope its members will be enthusiastic and forward thinking with the best interests of the Craft at heart.
In fact, brethren, visiting Lodges in London, our Provinces and Districts over the past year I have begun to sense a new optimism among our members and this is reinforced by the figures [see p20].
We are continuing to lose members overall and Lodges will go on closing when their numbers make them untenable, but the number of Grand Lodge certificates we issue each year appears to be holding up. If we average out the drop in the number of initiates since the millennium, it is less than 1% a year. This surely means our efforts must be concentrated on retaining them, and to do that we must educate them into the meaning and relevance of Masonry in the 21st century.
Brethren, as you will have read in the report of our last meeting, the Prestonian Lecture is entitled The Victoria Cross – Freemasons’ Band of Brothers and will be given by W Bro G S Angell. I would like also to commend to you the exhibition currently on view in the Library and Museum to mark the 150th anniversary of the institution of the Victoria Cross in 1856. The criterion for the reward is simple – conspicuous valour in the presence of the enemy – but its winners have been drawn from all sections of the armed forces, including some civilians under military command, and from all walks of life.
This exhibition is a tribute to those holders of the Victoria Cross who were also Freemasons and includes some of their stories. They amount to over 10% of all the awards ever won, which is a remarkable figure and one of which we can feel justifiably proud.
Pro Grand Master’s tribute to The Hon. Edward Latham Baillieu, Past Deputy Grand Master:
Brethren, many of you will be aware of the loss that has been suffered by the Craft by the death on 10 February of RW Bro. the Honourable Edward Latham Baillieu, Past Deputy Grand Master. I believe that a memorial service will be held in due course, but in the meantime I should like to say a few words in Grand Lodge now, so that those of us who knew him can be reminded of what sort of man – and Mason – he was, and those who did not may have some idea of what they have missed.
Bro. Baillieu, known to all his friends as ‘Ted’, was born in 1919 and was educated at Winchester and Oxford University, where his career was interrupted by the Second World War. He served in the Royal Horse Artillery and was invalided out after being wounded. In 1946 he was initiated into Empire Lodge No. 2108 in London and two years later was exalted into Empire Chapter.
Meanwhile, he was making his career in the City as a stockbroker. In 1962 he was appointed a Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies and served in that capacity for three years under the late Brother Frank Douglas, whom he succeeded as Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1968. When he relinquished that office in 1976 he became Assistant Grand Master in succession to the present Lord Cornwallis, in this again following in Frank Douglas’s footsteps (though this time at one remove). When Lord Cornwallis became Pro Grand Master in 1982, Ted succeeded him as Deputy Grand Master (and Second Grand Principal), finally retiring in 1989.
Ted was a larger than life character with an imposing presence, forthright in expressing his opinions, but commanding great affection among many of those who worked with or for him. He was a most impressive Grand Director of Ceremonies, but was nonetheless modest enough to claim in later years that Bro. Alan Ferris, who succeeded him, was the true professional in that office.
As a Ruler of the Craft he had no need to grow into his office, for he already brought with him all the necessary characteristics. After his retirement he only rarely attended Masonic functions in London – the last one of any magnitude being the 275th anniversary of Grand Lodge at Earls Court in 1992. Increasing infirmity in his later years meant that we saw less and less of him.
He nonetheless retained a keen interest in the affairs of the Craft, which is left the poorer by his passing.