Historic: a man of solid foundations

The remarkable career of scientist, philanthropist and Freemason, Henry S. Wellcome, is revealed by Yasha Beresiner

Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853–1936) was a remarkable man with many facets to his complex character: a scientist, businessman, philanthropist, archaeologist, collector and Freemason. He left behind a legacy that has immortalised his name in each of the fields in which he excelled with equal success. 

His philanthropy is manifest in The Wellcome Trust, established as an independent research-funding charity, as required in his will, on his death on 25 July 1936. Two years earlier he had witnessed the opening of the present Wellcome Building in Euston Road, London, much of it designed to his own specifications. 

In business, as recently as March 1995, Glaxo took over Wellcome for the staggering sum of £9.4 billion, in what was then the biggest merger in UK corporate history. And in January 2000, Glaxo Wellcome announced its merger with SmithKline Beecham to form the world’s largest pharmaceutical company. 

All this began in 1880 when Henry Wellcome, then just 27, left the United States to join his college friend Silas Burroughs in London and form the pharmaceutical company, Burroughs Wellcome. The firm flourished from the start, marketing and later manufacturing American compressed tablets. 

Burroughs was a Freemason, initiated in Clapham Lodge No. 1818, but more importantly, he had employed as an accountant an English Freemason of standing and ability, Robert Clay Sadlow, whose subsequent life-long friendship with Henry Wellcome is the catalyst that brought Wellcome into Freemasonry. 

Henry Wellcome’s 17th century ancestors were French Protestants named Bienvenue, who fled religious persecution to seek asylum in England, changing their name to Wellcome. 

They emigrated to New England in 1640, settling in Massachusetts. Solomon Wellcome, Henry’s father, married Mary Curtis in 1850 and Henry Solomon, their second son, was born in a Wisconsin log cabin on 21 August 1853. 

It was almost natural for Henry to adopt England as his mother country. He was nationalised in 1910, received his Knighthood, following on many other honours, in 1934 and he died an octogenarian in London in 1936. His initial partnership with Burroughs unfortunately ran into difficulties within two years of its formation, and litigation ensued culminating in an 1889 court case, which found in favour of Henry Wellcome. 

Notwithstanding the tensions between them, the company continued to prosper. When Burroughs died suddenly from pneumonia in 1895, Wellcome found himself in total control to implement his many whims – scientific and philanthropic – unhindered by financial or other restrictions. 

It is a reflection of Wellcome’s enthusiasm for Freemasonry, that during this troublesome period in his life, he pursued his Masonic activity well beyond its basic needs and principles. He was initiated into Lodge of Fidelity No. 3 on 11 of February 1885, and his passing and raising ceremonies, which were carried out in the same year by Robert Sadlow, was reportedly at Eastes Lodge No. 1965. 

On 19 March 1891, Henry Wellcome was the founding Senior Deacon of Columbia Lodge No. 2397 (he resigned in 1904) and a year later he was serving as Master of his mother Lodge. This is the year that he began his Masonic activities beyond the Craft. 

On 4 April 1892, he was exalted into the Royal Arch at the Old King Arms Chapter No. 28 and advanced in the Mark a year later. He was elected Master of Hiram Lodge of Mark Master Masons No. 13 on 25 March 1896, exactly three years after his advancement. He resigned the Mark in 1904. 

On 9 November 1894, he was perfected into Tuscan Chapter No. 129 of the Ancient and Accepted (Scottish) Rite (Rose Croix), reaching the 30th Degree in that Order in July 1898. Rather unusually, he only became Sovereign eight years later, in August 1906 and resigned from this Order, too, in 1920. 

He was also installed a Knights Templar in 1893 and took the Malta Degree in May 1895. By now he had become Master of the Columbia Lodge, in a ceremony again conducted by his good friend Robert Sadlow. This followed on his duties as First Principal of the Old King Arms Chapter, in 1897, the year of the foundation of the Columbia Chapter in which he was Second Principal. 

He was also, in 1890, an honorary member of Savage Club Lodge No. 2190. Notwithstanding all this intense Masonic activity, his enthusiasm and devotion to the Craft during these two decades is most manifest in the extracurricular activities associated with the unattached Clarence Lodge of Instruction in which he was elected Treasurer in 1893, a post that he actively filled until 1904. The Clarence Lodge of Instruction was founded by members of the Bank of England Lodge and was effectively a daughter Lodge to the well-known and long-standing Emulation Lodge of Improvement. 

Toward the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, the imagination of Victorian England was captivated by developments in Africa. Henry Wellcome had the flair and the money to do something practical about it. In 1884 he had met, and become close friends with Henry Stanley, the explorer, with whom he had a great deal in common. 

It was his friendship with Stanley that was largely responsible for Wellcome’s great interest in Africa. He was among the first European civilians to visit the Sudan after the Battle of Omdurman in the winter of 1900. He later met Lord Kitchener, an equally enthusiastic and high-ranking Freemason. In November 1899, following the agreement reached between Britain and Egypt, restoring Egyptian rule in Sudan, Kitchener was simultaneously appointed Governor-General of the Sudan and the first District Grand Master of Egypt & the Sudan. 

Sir Francis Reginald Wingate took over the Governorship from Kitchener, and much of Wellcome’s activities were coordinated through the auspices of Wingate. Henry’s first visit left such a strong impression on him that he spent a total of 14 active years in the area establishing the Gordon Memorial College and founding the Wellcome Tropical Research Laboratories in Khartoum, which placed Sudan in the forefront of tropical diseases research. 

Wellcome was an enthusiastic collector and a keen archaeologist. His interests in the Sudan and Egypt extended to archaeological digs, most famously at Jebel Moya in the Sudan, where he hired over 4,000 people to excavate over a period of several years. Notwithstanding some controversy as to his treatment of the native workers, he was popularly known as Al Pasha by the local inhabitants. 

His main collecting passion, however, was for medically related artefacts. He acquired a vast collection of scientific and other books and instruments – many of which are now on display in the Wellcome Gallery of London’s Science Museum or the Wellcome Institute Library. The Wellcome collection is vast, as Henry bought everything in sight that had anything whatsoever to do with medicine. 

The collection includes, for instance, Napoleon Bonaparte’s toothbrush, Charles Darwin’s walking stick and Florence Nightingale’s slippers. In 1936, at the time of his death, the total Wellcome collection consisted of over one million objects of which some 125,000 items were medically related and formed part of the permanent collection. 

The remainder of the items, including his Masonic possessions, were dispersed after his death by gift to other Museums and by auction. In one instance, on 21 March 1938, Harrods, Allsop & Co auctioned ‘by order of the trustees of the late Sir Henry Wellcome’ a total of nearly 200 books on Freemasonry in 11 lots (numbers 95 to 106). 

These included a first edition of Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723, a 1745 edition of the French Exposure Ordre Des Franc-Maçon Trahi, a 1691 edition of a Knights Templar volume, among many other classical works. They were all purchased by a buyer identified only as Marks, for £4.10s. 

It was in Khartoum in 1901 that Henry Wellcome met the beautiful, if somewhat impulsive, Gwendoline Maud Syrie and almost immediately fell in love with her. She was travelling with her father, Dr Thomas Barnardo (see MQ, issue 20), the famous founder of homes for orphan children and an old friend of Henry’s. Queenie, as she later became popularly known, was 21 and 27 years Henry’s junior. They married very soon thereafter and had one child, Henry Mounteney. 

Initially all was well but their interests, emphasised by the difference in age, were at opposite ends of the social spectrum. Henry was energetic and enjoyed sport and travel, whilst Syrie preferred sedentary socialising in London’s sophisticated parlours and drawing-rooms. Their son, who lived into his eighties, was born with mild brain-damage and had a learning disability that kept him apart from his family from the age of three for most of his childhood. 

Unable to identify with her husband’s work and activities and unhappy travelling with him, Syrie was soon having affairs, which included, though with scant evidence, the American-born magnate of the department store fame, Harry G Selfridge. In 1909, following a major quarrel, Henry and Syrie decided to separate. Syrie left for New York and they never saw each other again. 

In an attempt to keep scandal out of the press, Henry agreed to a generous financial settlement. He was, however, outraged by Syrie’s relationship with the homosexual writer William Somerset Maugham. Syrie bore Maugham’s child in Rome, named Mary Elizabeth and nicknamed Liza, after Liza of Lambeth, the heroine of Maugham’s first book, written before she was born, giving her Wellcome’s surname. 

Henry commenced proceedings, culminating in a divorce in February 1916, citing Maugham as co-respondent. The case was uncontested and Syrie gained custody of the child. Within three months she was secretly married to Somerset Maugham in New Jersey on 16 May 1916. They divorced in 1928. 

A great deal of publicity brought intimate details into public attention. Syrie had claimed that Henry treated her with brutality, neglecting her with his endless travelling and his excessive Masonic activities. It was not surprising that he left her nothing in his estate, although he gave £500 to Dr. Barnardo’s homes for children. 

In line with his impulsive, even if resolute nature, Wellcome’s Masonic interests waned after the highly concentrated period in which he had been so intensely active. 

It is thought that a specific incident may have triggered something in his sensitive nature to cause his gradual resignation from specific Lodges and general withdrawal from the Craft. There is, however, one last gesture on his part, of lasting Masonic consequence. It is his gift of the impressive life-size painting of George Washington to the United Grand Lodge of England. It hangs in the first floor Lounge at Freemasons’ Hall in London. 

As the centenary of the death of Washington in 1799 was approaching, Henry Wellcome offered Grand Lodge the portrait, which was gladly accepted. There was a delay due to the low quality of the first painting, and Wellcome commissioned the well-known American portrait artist Robert Gordon Hardie (1854-1904), writing to him on December 2nd 1901, as follows: 

I feel that by changing my original plan you will have much greater scope in painting a really masterful picture, which I am sure you will take great pride in doing. If you think it desirable to introduce Washington’s coat of arms (which contain the stars and stripes) you might do so. 

There are a great many portraits of Washington, which are excessively bad, and make him look more like George III than the true Washington. What is wanted in this picture is the type of Washington which you and I have known all our lives – our ideal! The great, wise and highly spiritual Washington – the true father of our country. 

The painting was formally unveiled on 8 August 1902 by the American Ambassador, Joseph H Choate, in the presence of the Earl of Warwick, Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England and a small gathering of Brethren in the library of Freemasons’ Hall. Among others present were J R Robertson, Past Grand Master of Canada, Sir J Puleston, Alderman F Trehawke, Col Daly, District Grand Master of British Guiana as well as Henry Sadler, the Grand Tyler and Clay Sadlow and Henry Wellcome himself. 

The portrait of George Washington is in the dress of the period with full Masonic regalia and, as requested, in the corner are the arms of the Washington family, which are the origin of the American stars and stripes. It is a permanent reminder and memorial to Wellcome’s remarkable life, his generosity and close involvement with the Craft. 

Bibliography and Credits 

Adeel, Ahmed: Henry Solomon Wellcome and the Sudan (On Line), September 2000 

Church, Roy & Tansey, E M: Burroughs Wellcome & Co – Knowledge, Trust and Profit and the Transformation of the British Pharmaceutical Industry 1880–1940, Crucible Books, Lancaster, 2007 

Sadler, Henry: Illustrated History of the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, London 1904 

Sutton, Michael (On Line): Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, ne1 8st. 

I also extend my appreciation to Ross MacFarlane, Archivist of the Wellcome Foundation Papers, who so readily assisted me with his vast knowledge of the subject. 

Published in Features
Sunday, 01 July 2007 01:00

Tom Harding serves the public

Public service: serving the public

Pullman car veteran Tom Harding talks to John Jackson about his meetings with the famous

At 93, Tom Harding, a Mason for more than 50 years, is as sharp as when he dealt with Royalty and other VIPs on the famous luxury Pullman cars, where passengers were served their meals at their tables – no first or second sittings in restaurant cars for them. 

Now living in the Masonic Housing Association home at Prebendal Close, Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, Tom still has vivid memories of his childhood. He was born the year the First World War began, and was brought up in the desperately poor area of Neath in south Wales, and so came to London, aged 14, to seek work. 

Little did he know then that he would rub shoulders with some of the world’s most powerful and famous people – royalty, statesmen, film stars and other celebrities. 

He recalls: “There was only one telephone in the village and that belonged to the local doctor. To see a motor car was a luxury. It is difficult to explain that to people today.” 

Tom recounts how he came to work on the railways. “When I left Neath the whole village turned out to see me off. I had a board round my neck with my name on it and I was met at Paddington station and found work in various hotels and restaurants. 

“One of the places I worked at was the Butler’s Head in the aptly-named Masons’ Avenue in the City of London. We would work there in the evening, often at Masonic events, for an extra sixpence plus a meal.” 

Tom joined a club in Soho which was largely a meeting place for people seeking work, and vacancies would be posted on a board. He met one man who, through ill health, had to give up his job on the Pullman cars. Why not apply for his job, the man suggested? 

After being taken on for a trial period, not knowing when he would be asked to leave, Tom adds: “It so happened I stayed 44 years.” 

And, he has a large illustrated memento in his flat signed by the many senior railway figures who came to his farewell party. 

But he had never forgotten his attendance as a waiter at Masonic festive boards, and in the 1950s became a Mason himself with Sprig of Acacia Lodge No. 3318 at Barnet in the Province of Hertfordshire, of which he is now an honorary member. Then, in 1979, he moved to Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire and joined a Lodge there. In addition, he was in Mark, Royal Arch, Mark Mariners and the Knights Templar. 

But all this time he was travelling on the Pullman cars, on trains now legendary for their luxury such as the Brighton Belle, the Golden Arrow, which went from Victoria via the boat train to the Gard du Nord in Paris, and the Orient Express. His time on the Pullman cars ran from 1934 until his retirement in 1979. 

During those years he met many famous people. “You read about them and saw their photographs in the paper, but being with them was an amazing experience. With the Royal family you were there as a servant of the Crown.” 

Among his fondest memories are shaking hands with US President Harry Truman and meeting President Jimmy Carter, and receiving a menu card from Haile Selassie, known as the Lion of Judah, then Emperor of Ethiopia. Foreign royalty included King Baudouin of the Belgians and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. Other VIPs he met included General (later President) Eisenhower, Anthony Eden, then Foreign Secretary but later Prime Minister and another occupant of 10 Downing Street – Neville Chamberlain. 

He would often, as the chef, prepare meals for these VIPs, and later ran the luxury cars himself. He adds: “You were never supposed to ask for autographs, but I did break that rule once. Churchill was in a carriage and had thrown a number of papers on the ground. 

I picked them up and handed them back to him. Then I asked for his autograph. 

‘Certainly not’ said Winston and returned to his work.” 

Sadly, but with pride, he recalls how many years later he looked after the Churchill family when Sir Winston’s body was carried in a Pullman as part of his journey back to Bladon, in Oxfordshire, where he is buried. 

But one of his most memorable occasions was when he arranged for five Pullman trains to escort the numerous VIPs to the Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales by the Queen at Caernarvon Castle in 1969.

The link between Rahere Lodge and St Bartholomew's Hospital is explained by John M. Grange

One of the most awe-inspiring and atmospheric buildings in all of London is the Priory Church of St. Bartholomew-the-Great in Smithfield. Perhaps because it is hidden away from the hurly-burly of London life, this haven of peace and tranquillity is not nearly as well known as it deserves to be. 

On the north side of the altar is a tomb on which are engraven the words “Hic iacet Raherus Primus Canonicus et Primus huius Ecclesiae” (Here lies Rahere, the first canon and first prior of this church). Today, Rahere is remembered not just as the founder of the Priory Church but also of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, popularly known as ‘Bart’s’. On June 29th 1895, a Masonic Lodge was consecrated at this great and famous hospital by the M.W. Pro Grand Master, The Earl of Lathom, in the presence of the M.W. Grand Master H.R.H. The Prince of Wales and the Crown Prince of Denmark, Grand Master of Danish Freemasons. This new Lodge was, very appropriately, named The Rahere Lodge. 

Little is known of the origins and early life of Rahere. Much of what is known of him comes from a book called the ‘The Book of the Foundation of St. Bartholomew’s Church in London, the Church Belonging to the Priory of the Same in West Smithfield’ (or, more usually, ‘The Book of Foundation’). This was written in Latin by a canon of the Priory Church around the year 1180 (about 40 years after the death of Rahere) and a translation into modern English made in 1923 is available from the church. 

Rahere probably came from a humble background but he had great personal charisma and charm, a rich sense of humour and a liking for the good things of life. He used his personal charms to gain a place in the court of Henry I, the son of William the Conqueror, where, according to the Book of Foundation, “…he made it his business all day long to attend spectacles, banquets, jests and the rest of the trifles of the court and, with shameless face betaking himself to the suite – now of the king, now of the nobles – he assiduously employed a complaisance that should please them and obtain with greater ease anything that it pleased him to seek.” 

It is said, though not confirmed, that he held the high and influential office of Court Jester. 

Despite his self-indulgent life style, there are hints that even then there was a more profound side of his character and he may have held a clerical appointment as the unusual name Rahere first appears in the list of Canons of St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1115. 

Certainly, he deeply admired Queen Matilda, a spiritual and charitable lady, and he was profoundly affected by her death in the year 1118. Two years later, in 1120, the king’s son and heir, William, and other members of the royal family and household perished when their ship sank in a storm in the English Channel. 

In the words of Leonard Clark, in a booklet entitled The Story of Rahere (available from the Priory Church), “Sudden death and grief challenged Rahere, perhaps for the first time. He realised that there was much more to life than a round of pleasure and merrymaking.” Rahere therefore left the royal court and set out as a humble pilgrim on a long and perilous journey in the hope of finding enlightenment. After enduring great hardships, he arrived in Rome but while staying on the Island of St. Bartholomew in the River Tiber he became seriously ill with the ‘Roman Fever’ – possibly malaria. Fearful for his life, he made a vow to God that, in the event of his recovery, he would return to England and found a hospital for the poor. 

He did recover and set out for his native land but on his journey he had a dreadful vision in which he was carried by a winged beast to the edge of a horrible abyss, into which he thought he was about to plunge. 

As he cried out in terror a figure appeared beside him ‘bearing royal majesty in his countenance, of wonderful beauty and imperial authority’ who identified himself as St. Bartholomew and directed Rahere to found a church and hospital in his name at Smithfield. The saint also told Rahere that he should have no doubt or anxiety at all concerning the expenses of this work, but should merely apply himself diligently to his appointed task. 

The cost of the promised building work proved no problem as Rahere received the patronage of the king and the Bishop of London and work commenced in the rather dreary and muddy land known as Smoothfield, or Smithfield, the site of a gallows. Beside the effigy of Rahere on his tomb is a small figure of a kneeling monk reading a bible. The words being read are from Isaiah 51:3, “Consolabitur ergo Dominus Sion, et consolabitur omnes ruinas ejus; et ponat desertum ejus quasi delicias, et solitudinem ejus quasi hortum Domini.” (For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord). It has been suggested that this refers to the new life brought to this desolate place by the building of the Priory Church and hospital. 

The construction of the church, to become part of an Augustinian monastery, and the hospital, now the oldest active hospital in London, commenced in 1123. 

Work must have progressed at a great pace, as both buildings were completed within 20 years. Rahere, by then an Augustinian canon, became the first Prior of the church and the first Master of the hospital, posts he held until his death in 1143. 

The original church was much larger than the present-day building; indeed, it was larger than most cathedrals at that time. Sadly, after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, several parts fell into disrepair and others were used for different purposes. The now-restored North Transept, for example, was for some time a blacksmith’s forge. 

In addition to founding the church and hospital, Rahere was given funding by the king to establish an annual cloth fair at Smithfield, running for three days from St Bartholomew’s Eve, August 23rd. The fair proved extremely popular and it became one of the great annual events in London and a public holiday. It eventually developed into a huge market, trading in many commodities other than cloth, including meat and livestock, and there was a myriad of entertainment – jugglers, fire eaters, jesters, minstrels, storytellers and many more, and Rahere himself would sometimes amuse the crowds with juggling. 

Also, the operative guilds prepared and performed mystery plays but, alas, the collapse of the guilds and the puritanical attitudes fostered by Protestantism brought the mystery plays to an end but their tradition is perpetuated in Masonic rituals. 

The fair was last held in 1855 but, to this day, there is a large meat market at Smithfield. 

After his mystical experience Rahere devoted his life to preaching and teaching and, in the Christian tradition of those days, to healing. From the very beginning, miraculous events occurred. On one evening during the building of the church, as night was descending, many people witnessed a mysterious light over the church which remained for around one hour. Not long after the monastery was founded, there were claims that Rahere had gifts of healing and the sick and lame came on pilgrimages from afar in the hope of being healed. Even after Rahere’s death, people would lay prostrate in the Priory Church praying to St Bartholomew for healing. The Book of Foundation states that “many and innumerable tokens of miracles were performed, but on account of their abundance they were neglected and were handed down to memory by scarcely anyone” and so the author of that book resolved only to describe those he had personally witnessed. The many reports include healing of the blind, deaf, dumb and paralysed (in one well described case a girl who was blind, deaf, dumb and paralysed was healed) and also those with severe deformities, strokes, epilepsy, tinnitus, severe mental disorders, insomnia and dropsy. 

Clearly, Rahere saw no conflict between healing of Divine origin in his church and curing by the ministration of the medical profession in his hospital. 

Some 860 years after the death of Rahere, the church and hospital still stand, the former smaller than the original and the latter very much larger. Both have endured threats to their very existence – the hospital having recently survived attempts to close it. But the spirit of Rahere is stronger than those of mortal men and these great institutions, and the fine Masonic Lodge bearing his name, are active and flourishing today. 


The author is grateful to W.Bro. Trevor Dutt, Honorary Archivist to the Rahere Lodge, for information on the consecration of this Lodge. 

Masonry has always been attractive to Jews – there were Jewish Freemasons in England before the premier Grand Lodge, and the closeness of this connection still exists. Many of my friends are active in both Lodge and synagogue, several rabbis are keen Freemasons, and occasionally internal differences within the Jewish community can be bridged in and through the Craft. 

There is no conflict between Judaism and Freemasonry. I view with bemused incomprehension the way that other faiths sometimes oppose the one major force in society that both shares their ideals and actively promotes them.

The connection between Judaism and the Craft was obvious to me from the night of my initiation. I remember being amazed that the tyler’s toast, almost word for word, is identical to part of the synagogue service. 

As I progressed through the degrees and the offices, I realised that alongside my faith would stand my Freemasonry, not as a second religion, but as a “handmaid to religion”, as a support and an enhancement. 

There is so much that is common to both Judaism and Freemasonry, and these two major influences on my life flow in parallel channels. The most obvious similarity is the use of the Volume of the Sacred Law and Biblical passages, and sometimes this can be more than just Bible stories. 

In December 1996 I was founding senior warden of a Lodge that was consecrated in King Solomon’s quarries under the Old City of Jerusalem. The chisel marks of the masons who had quarried the stones are still visible, and since the stones were dressed where they were cut, it suddenly became very obvious why, at the Temple site itself, “there was not heard the sound of metallic tool”. 

Both Judaism and Freemasonry provide a continual intellectual challenge. Neither is, nor ever can be, fully understood and interpreted, and each provides an ongoing field for study – the concept of a daily advancement in knowledge is a common ideal. 

Occasionally there are parallels that cause much thought. The three verses of the priestly benediction have three, five and seven words respectively in the original Hebrew – is this merely a coincidence with the numbers needed to form, hold and perfect a Lodge? 

Freemasonry is described as “illustrated by symbols”. Judaism emphasises the value of symbolic action for both faith and education. The importance of being free men forms the core of the major Passover home ritual. The synagogue service on the Day of Atonement re-enacts the actions of the people in Temple times on hearing the name of the Most High. 

The description of charity – the Hebrew term Tzedakah also means both justice and righteousness – as a quality “that blesses him who gives as much as him who receives”, resonates with the Rabbinic comment that the highest form of charity is when neither donor nor recipient knows the identity of the other. 

But the quality that appeals to me above all is the sense of brotherhood and toleration inherent in Masonry. Almost without exception, the regimes that have been intolerant to Jews are the ones that have also been prejudiced against Freemasonry. 

Through Masonry I have come to know many wonderful people; without Masonry we would “have remained at a perpetual distance”. The wide circle of friendships that I have made in Masonry has enriched my life and that of my family. 

Is there a conflict between Judaism and Freemasonry? Not at all. 

Would I recommend a Jew to become a Freemason? Unhesitatingly. 

I have found it a daily delight, and one of the greatest influences of my life. 

Elkan Levy is Provincial Grand Chaplain for Middlesex and Metropolitan Deputy Grand Chaplain for London

Published in Features
Sunday, 01 April 2007 01:00

Showmen's Lodge No. 9826 is consecrated

Specialist lodges: all the fun of the fair

A newly-consecrated lodge has been set up for travelling showmen, John Jackson reports

When the ancient Goose Fair, well over 700 years old, gets underway at Nottingham in October, among the showmen who will be entertaining the thousands of visitors will be members of a newly consecrated Lodge, The Showmen’s No. 9826. 

Showmen have been associated with fairs as far back as at least Roman times, the word ‘fair’ deriving from the Latin word ‘feria’ meaning ‘holiday’. As fairgrounds became established, many were granted charter status by the sovereign, and a number of these charter fairs exist today with their showmen in attendance. 

These include King’s Lynn, under a charter granted by King John in 1204, which traditionally starts the travelling showmen’s season on St Valentine’s Day – 14 February. 

The association with the church still continues to this day, for the opening ceremony at King’s Lynn begins with a blessing from the Mayor’s Chaplain. 

These early fairs were originally for the sale of livestock, but quickly attracted the travelling showmen, and many fairs were associated with Saints’ days and the early Christian church. 

The granting of a charter by the sovereign was much prized, as it laid down the dates, provided protection against rival fairs and gave the right to collect dues and tolls. In return, there was an obligation to hold the fair on the stated dates. 

Many autumn fairs did not have a charter and were known as ‘Mop’ or ‘Hiring’ fairs, and some still exist. At these fairs, prospective employers reviewed potential employees. 

Sometimes a second fair – known as a Run-Away Mop – was held for those seeking to change jobs or those who had not found work on the first occasion. 

With the showmen travelling hundreds of miles, it has not been easy trying to put a Lodge together for such a mobile group of Masons. The original idea came from secretary Paul Maltby, but it would not have got off the ground but for the enthusiasm of Darren Jones, first Master, and his Uncle Jimmy Wheatley, first Senior Warden. 

The Lodge, consecrated in February, has 31 founders – all showmen – and many of them run the big rides, so popular with children. It was because they were so scattered that the idea of a Lodge arose. However, the plan has been an instant success, with seven candidates lining up to become Masons as well as five joining members waiting to come on board. The Lodge will hold its meetings at Loughborough in the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland, whose Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro Michael H Roalfe, officiated at the consecration meeting. 

The Lodge was also given a great deal of help by Richard Moss of Belper Masonic Regalia in Derbyshire. 

Summer is the busiest time for showmen, so the Lodge will be meeting five times a year ‘out of season’ in September, November, December, January and February. 

Although showmen are spread over the country, there is a central organisation, the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, which is both a trade union and trade association, and was originally formed around 1888-1889 as the United Kingdom Van Dwellers Protection Association (the Guild). There is also a Showmen's Guild Lodge No. 9089 associated with the Guild, which meets at Clevedon in Somerset. 

Further information:


Emergency services: right place, right time

Serving the community: two Masons win major rescue awards

Lightning, they say, never strikes twice in the same place. Be that as it may, a unique event has hit home twice to Eureka Lodge No. 3763, which meets at Bootle on Merseyside in the Province of West Lancashire. 

Each year the Ambulance Service Institute (ASI) presents awards for outstanding achievements, and Eureka Lodge members Dave Seel, a paramedic, and Dave Anderson, an emergency medical technician, have together achieved an amazing double akin to lightning striking twice in the same place. 

In each case, they were in the right place at the right time at an emergency situation, and were able to play a major role in saving life and limb in what were extremely serious incidents. 

Last year, Dave Anderson was awarded the ASI Private Ambulance of the Year Award, presented at the House of Commons, following action he took when he was first on the scene involving two motorway pile-ups. 

Previously, in 2005, Dave Seel won exactly the same award following a road traffic collision on Manchester’s A57. And to complete the unique double event, Dave Seel had proposed Dave Anderson into Masonry a year earlier. 

Both Masons work for the medical and rescue services division of Safety Provider Ltd, which provides cover for medical rescue occurrences for organisations such as the Highways Agency, the Rockingham race circuit at Corby – where they manage the £100,000 medical centre provision – as well as being an emergency nuclear response team in the event of a national emergency at a power station for British Energy. 

Dave Anderson was the first on the scene at two motorway pile-ups as he drove home. As he approached Junction 25 on the M62, near Brighouse in West Yorkshire, he saw three cars collide, throwing debris across the motorway. 

He explains: “I was driving a marked response vehicle, and as a consequence, I was able to slow the traffic down to make it safe to approach the damaged vehicles and check on the injured drivers. I then helped the police get the victims to the safety of a lay-by as an ambulance arrived. But just moments later, three more cars crashed in an almost identical manner.” 

Dave sprang into action again and helped get three more injured people to safety, but was working, with the support of the police, very much on his own. Luckily, he knew that an ambulance crew was on the way.

Dave Seel was travelling on the A57 Manchester to see a customer when he noticed a collection of vehicles beside a canal on a bridge. There were a few people standing looking over the bridge and they seemed concerned. 

He says: “I was noticed by one bystander who signalled to me to get assistance. I got out of my vehicle and looked at what was causing the interest. To my horror, I observed a small vehicle that looked as though it had travelled approximately 20 feet down an embankment, through two fences and then a further 15 feet into a canal. 

“The vehicle was upside down with only the four wheels and 1/10th of the underbody showing. It is alleged that the vehicle was hit from the rear by a HGV, which caused the incident.” 

Dave Seel shouted down to a bystander, who was in the canal, as to whether there was anyone in the vehicle, and was shocked to discover that there was. Donning his high visibility jacket and helmet, he proceeded down the route the vehicle had taken into the canal. 

He continues: “I was wearing a suit at the time. By the time I got into the canal a further bystander had ventured into the water to assist and they had managed to get one occupant out of the vehicle – a female passenger. I managed to get the driver’s door open and pulled her husband out of the vehicle. 

“He was unconscious and submerged. I realised that he could have been in that state prior to my arrival, some 10 to 15 minutes. 

With the assistance of the bystanders, we got the husband and wife to the edge of the canal, where there was a small stone and sand-filled embankment for my assessment of their injuries.” 

An ambulance arrived along with the fire service, which was a welcoming sight. The fire service checked the vehicle in case there were any further occupants, as well as the surrounding area, and fortunately, there was none. 

A primary and secondary survey Dave carried out on the couple found only cuts and bruises. He then trudged back out of the canal, up the 15ft ladder, up a 1 in 4 muddy embankment of 20 feet and back to his vehicle. 

He sums up the experience thus: “I have been a member of the Red Cross for over 25 years and was a paramedic for Mersey Regional Ambulance Service for over 12 years. I can honestly say I have never dealt with an incident quite like this before. 

“The bystanders who were on scene prior to my arrival were the real heroes. None of them had any formal training to deal with an incident like this, and yet set up a ladder for the rescue and even made attempts to get into the water.” 

Dave puts his actions on that day down to the level of training and exposure to similar incidents over the years he had received from the Red Cross and the ambulance service.

The Spanish hero: How a mason of Spanish descent discovered his father's extraordinary masonic roots is revealed by Tom Forsyth

When retired Keswick hotelier Teodoro Lopez, a Spaniard by birth, applied to become a Mason in Derwentwater Lodge No. 6375 in the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland, he was anxious to follow in the footsteps of his late father, Teodoro Lopez Serrano, who had been a Freemason in Spain. 

He knew nothing about his father’s Masonic career, but was anxious for the Lodge to help him trace any background that would help enlighten him, given that Spanish Freemasonry was banned during the dictatorship of General Franco. 

The story that was to unfold was remarkable and terrifying, as it transpired that Teo’s father was no ordinary Mason. Indeed, following research in England and Spain, it was revealed that his father had been none other than the Grand Secretary of the Grand Orient of Spain. 

Moreover, his father had been sentenced to 18 years imprisonment for his Masonic beliefs, and served seven years of this sentence, being released in 1948. During this difficult time the needs of the family had been assisted by persons unknown to Teo. 

His father, undaunted by his years in prison for his Masonic beliefs, had been proactive in the reintroduction of Freemasonry into Spain, joining the reincarnated Lodge la Matritense No. 7 of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Castille, which meets in Madrid. 

This Lodge itself has a most distinguished history, having been consecrated as Lodge No. 1 in Spain in 1728, but following turbulent times in Spanish Freemasonry, has twice been reorganised. As the current Grand Lodge of Spain is recognised as regular by the United Grand Lodge of England, it seemed appropriate that Teo and other members of Derwentwater Lodge should visit his father’s old Lodge in Madrid. 

Contact was made with Manuel Calvo, then Master of Lodge la Matritense No. 7, and 14 brethren and three wives flew out to Spain for a meeting last September. A lecture was given at the meeting for the benefit of the visitors, who also included a Mason from Cuba and one from Chile. 

At the meeting Teo presented the new Master, Primitivo Mendoza, with a wall clock manufactured from Lakeland slate and suitably inscribed with Masonic symbolism and a presentation plaque, a fitting and lasting tribute to his father. The Master broke with tradition and embraced Teo in open Lodge and presented him with his father’s application form to Lodgela Matritense No. 7 and a Lodge tie. 

The toast to Absent Brethren included Lionel Nutley of Derwentwater Lodge who, at 100 years of age, thought the trip would be too much for him. Then the visiting Masons rounded off the evening with a rendition of the Absent Brethren song. For the two Lodges, regular communication now takes place, and Derwentwater Lodge has added Spain to its list of overseas countries it has visited for Masonic gatherings such as Canada, the United States, Thailand and Australia, underlining Masonry worldwide. 

The trip was a great success, due largely to the arrangements made the Master and the Immediate Past Master, Manuel Calvo, and one Brother has discovered the courage and tenacity of his father. 

Tom Forsyth is secretary of Derwentwater Lodge No. 6375

Welsh award: keep the wheels turning

A Welsh national sporting award has been won by Monmouthshire Mason Neil Smith

Welsh Mason Neil Smith, from Newport, has won a prestigious national award for coaching and encouraging disabled riders to the top of the sport of cycling by spending many hours at the trackside of the Welsh National Velodrome. 

He was awarded the Sports Council for Wales Coach of the Year Award for 2006 in the Disabled Sports People: Performance category, and was presented with his award in Cardiff by Alun Pugh AM, Minister for Culture, Welsh Language and Sport in the Welsh Assembly. 

Neil, a telecommunications operations director, is a Past Master of Lodge of Concord No. 9010, Province of Monmouthshire, and the Lodge has been giving its backing to his efforts by donating £1,000 towards purchasing a tandem for visually impaired riders. 

Among Neil’s achievements is seeing Jody Cundy win two Paralympic gold medals, breaking two UCI world records and become the UCI world champion over one kilometre. 

Neil commented: “I think seeing Jody at the World Cup in Manchester was the greatest thing for me.” In addition, he has helped Welsh juniors Nathan Tyrell and James Brookman to the top in their respective disciplines in Great Britain. 

Sports minister Alun Pugh said: “Without the valuable contribution of coaches, both professional and community based, we would not be able to fulfil the aspirations of Climbing Higher, our sports and physical activity strategy.” 

The official award citation said: “Neil has mentored and encouraged athletes to some of the greatest Paralympic heights in British cycling. His cyclist, Jody Cundy, has benefitted from Neil’s excellent coaching and feels that Neil has been paramount in his transition from Paralympic swimmer to cyclist. 

“Neil has provided the skill, encouragement and leadership in the lead up to competitions which has helped Jody to win two IPC Paralympic Gold Medals, two UCI World Records and become IPC World Record holder in the 1km Sprint. 

“He spends many hours a week coaching at Newport, where he not only coaches Jody, but lends his experience and knowledge to a squad that includes Nathan Tyrell and James Brookman – two talented Welsh Juniors who are number one in Great Britain. Neil is a fantastic coach and a great motivator who cares passionately for his individual riders.” 

It is a tribute to Neil that he should have won such a prestigious national award arising out of his part-time work for disabled people who want to enjoy their sport. 

Ancient crafts: recreating the dawn of history

An ancient boat building skill has earned Peter Faulkner an international reputation

Britain, being an island, has long had a tradition of being involved with the sea, and among the most historic craft used to navigate both inland waters and the open sea are the ancient coracles and currachs, which go back to the dawn of history. 

But these craft are still around today, and among those who build them is Herefordshire Mason Peter Faulkner, a leading specialist in skin boats, who made his first hide coracle in 1987. 

Peter’s boats are constructed from wholly sustainable materials mirroring the geographical inertia of ‘old-time’ craftsmen, as all raw materials – hazel, willow, timber and hides – are sourced locally. 

He is planning a cross-Channel venture next year using a currach with a crew of eight to ten, all members of Arrow Lodge No. 2240, Province of Herefordshire. 

However, he is also bringing along two extras in case of ‘mal de mare.’ A TV crew is also expected to follow them – but not in a currach! The journey is for charity – the Province’s 2008 Festival as well as local organisations such as Air Ambulance. 

Peter explains: “A coracle is a keel-less fresh water craft propelled by one paddle, whereas a currach is a sea-going craft. The former may well have existed in some form as long as 100,000 years ago. We do know that currachs were being used around these islands in Mesolithic times.” 

The Mesolithic – or middle stone age – period was nearly 10,000 years ago, and last year Peter built a 21-feet currach of the period for Archaeolink, Aberdeenshire. He adds: “I was not taught how to make a coracle but in 1987 went to a traditional maker at Ironbridge in Shropshire and took photos, measurements and notes, then went back home and constructed my first coracle, ‘Teme Dipper.’ 

“In this boat I traversed the river Teme – 85 miles – the Severn – 165 miles, the Wye – 100 miles – and part of the Shannon. This coracle hangs in my workshop today, rather battered but proud. The learning curve continues to this day.” 

But, as he will be 65 in August, is it not time to hang up his paddle? Not a bit of it, he says. “Retirement isn’t in my vocabulary. My big dream is to build a 38-feet currach, using my usual materials, and to cross the Atlantic. I already have a crew list.” 

So how did he get into such an unusual occupation? He explains: “Returning to the village where I grew up – Leintwardine in Herefordshire – I built a coracle to travel down the local river – the Teme – in which I learned to swim and explore. My three brothers and I, together with other village children, had a Tom Sawyer-type childhood in the 1950s – we roamed freely and learned to survive. 

“My prototype was, I thought, a one-off, but a chance meeting with John Leach, the Somerset potter, changed all that, when he asked me to make him a coracle – my first customer. Now, some 200 skin coracles later, I have an international business and reputation.” 

In 1996 he was commissioned by the Kilmartin House Trust in Argyll to lead a project to construct a sea-going skin boat or currach. Peter sourced all the materials for the framework and the eight hides this craft required. 

He also designed the hull, and with a team of volunteers constructed the 22 feet by seven feet basket at Mayo Abbey, Co. Mayo, Ireland and later sailed from Ballycastle in Northern Ireland to Argyll in Scotland. The journey was featured in BBC Scotland’s documentary Columba’s Crossing, about St Colombo, who founded the Iona community on that remote Scottish island. 

In 2002 he attempted to cross the Channel from France to England on the prevailing wind, but unfortunately the wind died and they had to be towed back to Dover. However, the following month he competed successfully in the Great River Race down the tidal Thames in a 13-feet coracle with a crew of six, completing the 22 miles in four hours and 20 minutes. 

In 2005, he did the same journey again – in less than four hours. However, in 2003, during the memorable August heatwave of that year, he took 11 days to travel down the Thames from Cricklade in Wiltshire to Teddington Lock in a coracle – four feet six inches in diameter – but it was very slack water, and he was paddling for seven hours a day. 

Peter, who lives at Clungunford in Shropshire, is a Yeoman member of the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers, and is currently chairman of The Coracle Society. He travels abroad to exhibit his craft, and is regularly featured in the media from boating magazines to numerous TV appearances, and recently received an invitation to visit Japan. 

On a cold February morning in 1940 I was born the fourth child of a Regimental Sergeant-Major stationed at Catterick camp in Yorkshire. He was also a life-long Salvationist. He became a Freemason many years later and had been Chaplain to Eden Park Lodge No. 123 in Surrey. 

On his death-bed he turned to me – I was dressed in my uniform as a full-time Salvation Army officer – and said wistfully: “I always wondered, David, why you never asked to join my Lodge?” 

He then proceeded to recite the working tools of an Entered Apprentice Freemason: 

“The twenty-four inch gauge represents the twenty-four hours of the day, part to be spent in prayer to Almighty God, part in labour and refreshment, and part in serving a friend or Brother in time of need…” 

Was this, in essence, so different from the Covenant and Dedication that I had signed and pledged my allegiance to, 17 years earlier, at the time when I was Commissioned and ordained to serve God through the ranks of the Salvation Army? 

I spent many days, months – indeed, over five years thinking and pondering on these thoughts before a very fine friend asked me if I had ever thought of becoming a Mason? 

I answered – ‘Yes!’ And so, on the first day of April 1981, I was initiated, as a Lewis, in company with a second candidate, into Freemasonry and became a member of the Lodge of Integrity No. 5149, which meets at Chelmsford. 

‘….Masonry is free, and requires a perfect freedom of inclination in every Candidate for its mysteries. It is founded on the purest principles of piety and virtue…vows of fidelity are required; but let me assure you that in those vows there is nothing incompatible with your civil, moral or religious duties….’ 

Oh! I have found this to be so very true. 

Freemasonry is not a religion – ‘it is a peculiar system of morality’ but its teachings provide so much of…‘what’s good to be understood by a …mason.’ 

Twenty-six years have now passed and they have been a most thrilling and rewarding part of my life. As a Salvationist and a Mason there has been no conflict with my faith, no conflict in my daily living, and no conflict in my dealings with other people. 

Both the Salvation Army, a branch of the Christian Church, and the Fraternity of our Brotherhood, have parallel ideals – both require an acknowledgement of God as the Creator, both require truth in all our dealings, and both require commitment to the care and service of others – so there need be no conflict. 

Prior to my present Masonic appointment as Provincial Grand Chaplain for Buckinghamshire, I enjoyed the great honour of being the Provincial Almoner. 

The role of Almoner is very special and I have felt privileged to be able to seek out those who were experiencing difficult circumstances, and to be able to bring about change in quality of life for so many of our brethren and the dependents, by accessing our various Masonic Charities. 

Those years have truly been a most fulfilling period, not only of my Masonic experience, but of my life. This ‘work’ has been so very compatible with my religious duties, and the great joy for me has been that I have always been able to carry out those Masonic duties as if I was wearing the Salvation Army uniform ‘S’ insignia on my collar. 

There will inevitably be those who will say “Ah! But what about the Gospel of Christ – where does that fit into your belief as a Salvationist and your Masonic teaching! 

Well, I don’t have a problem with that - but perhaps it could, or maybe should, be for a future discussion or article! 

David M Sawyer is Provincial Grand Chaplain, Province of Buckinghamshire 


Published in Features
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