Historic: suffer little children
Dr Barnardo's name is synonymous with helping destitute children, but he was also a Freemason, as Yasha Beresiner reveals
Dr Thomas John Barnardo (1845–1905), nicknamed ‘The Doctor’, was a leading reformer of the 19th century on a par with Sir Robert Peel, Elizabeth Fry and Florence Nightingale. Single-handed, over a period of four decades, he improved the life of hundreds of thousands of destitute children. His first home opened in the East End of London in 1870. At his death, in September 1905, there were nearly 8,000 children in 96 of his residential homes. Some 1,300 had disabilities and 4,000 were ‘boarded out’, namely placed with foster parents. An additional 18,000 children, controversially, had been sent to Canada and Australia.
Relatively late in his busy philanthropic career, in November 1889, Thomas Barnardo became a Freemason in London at the mature age of 44, being initiated into Shadwell Clerke Lodge No. 1910 at the Hotel Cecil in the Strand. The Lodge, warranted on 22 April 1881, was founded in November 1882 in honour of Colonel Shadwell H. Clerke, who had been appointed Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England two and half years earlier.
Barnardo’s progress through the three Degrees took place in the old-fashioned way: one degree a year. He was passed on 23 June 1890 and raised on 8 October 1891. Barnardo did not take office, although he continued his full membership to his dying day.
It is interesting to speculate as to what may have induced him to become a Freemason. In his youth he had been an avid reader of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), the positive Swiss-born French [only from 1741 onwards, before moving to Luxembourg in 1757, fleeing to Switzerland in 1762 and then to England and back to Paris in 1767, but died insane] philosopher and writer and of Thomas Paine (1737–1809), the English intellectual, political and religious thinker.
Both men, although not Freemasons, advocated philosophies with which Masonic thinking, fashionable in the 1880s, not least because of Royal patronage, would be in sympathy. Indeed, Thomas Paine published his own theory on the origins of Freemasonry, which today remains only of interest as an historical curiosity.
More importantly, however, a greater influence on Barnardo to become a Freemason may have emanated from his friendship with Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853–1936) the American-born British pharmaceutical entrepreneur. Here was a dedicated and very active Freemason, whose closeness to Barnardo was, at a later stage, greatly enhanced when, in 1901, Wellcome married Gwendolin Maud Syrie, Barnardo’s daughter.
Curiously, Henry Wellcome’s excessive Masonic activities, inter alia, were cited by his wife as to the cause of the separation between the two, which ended in a divorce in 1915, with W. Somerset Maugham being named as a co-respondent…but that is another story!
The Lodge records show that at a Lodge of Emergency held on 6 September 1889 at the Masonic Hall, Red Lion Square, London, Thomas John Barnardo, Esq, MRCS, aged forty [sic] was proposed by the Lodge Secretary, W Bro C.F. Matier and seconded by the Senior Warden, Bro W.C. Gilles. Bro Matier later became Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons (1889–1914) as well as Great Vice-Chancellor in the Great Priory of Knights Templar (1896–1914). Barnardo was balloted for and elected.
At the same meeting, Douglas Heron Marrable was also elected. Rather unusually, the Initiation, which took place at the next meeting on 25 November 1889, was an Installation meeting. RW Bro Major-General Lord John Henry Taylour PJGW (1831–1890), was in the Chair as Master and immediately following the Initiation ceremony, Barnardo’s seconder, Bro William Charles Gilles, was installed as Master.
The visitors included VW Bro Colonel Shadwell H. Clerke himself, RW Bro The Rt Hon the Earl of Euston, Provincial Grand Master of Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire, RW Bro General I.W. Laurie, District Grand Master of Nova Scotia, Canada, VW Bro Frederick Adolphus Philbrick QC, Grand Registrar and Great Chancellor of Knights Templar and 32° in the Ancient & Accepted Rite and a well-known philatelist, among others. There is no record of Douglas Marrable, who had been elected with Barnardo.
At this meeting it was decided that the Lodge would move from the Masonic Hall, Red Lion Square to Mark Masons’ Hall at Great Queen Street, where the next regular meeting was held on 23 June 1890. It was W Bro William Charles Gilles’s first meeting in the Chair and a busy one – with five candidates for the Fellowcraft Degree. Bro Barnardo was passed to the Second Degree together with the following additional Brethren: Bros H.F. Matthews, J.L. Grossmith and Bros Newton, South and Savory, who were Passed at the request of the Master of the Grafton Lodge No. 2347.
Barnardo’s Raising coincided with a tragic event, the death of the newly elected Master of the Lodge, W Bro James MacDonald, who was killed on a railway line on 15 August 1891. A Lodge of Emergency was held on 8 October 1891 at Mark Masons’ Hall and Bro Barnardo was raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason by the Immediate Past Master, W Bro W.C. Gilles, together with Bros Pirie, Cummins and Fullilove.
The only other mention of Bro Thomas Barnardo in the Lodge records is a resolution recorded for 25 September 1905 in which: The W.M. proposed and W Bro H.F. Matthews seconded that a letter of condolence and sympathy be sent to Mrs Barnardo on the loss of her husband, our Brother Dr. Barnardo. This was unanimously agreed.’
Tom Barnardo was born in Dublin, the son of a furrier. Little detail of his unhappy childhood has emerged. His reports from St. Patrick’s Cathedral Grammar School in Dublin show him to have been rebellious and an agitator, easily bored by lessons, and whilst talented with eloquence, he appears to have been confrontational and argumentative.
He was unsuccessful with his public school exams and, at 16, chose to cease his studies in favour of a short-lived apprenticeship to a wine merchant. A year later, in May 1862, Barnardo converted to become an Evangelical Christian and took to his newly acquired persuasion with zest and passion. He became impatient to convert others, teaching Bible classes in a Dublin ragged school and getting involved in home visiting.
His membership, with his whole immediate family, of the Plymouth Brethren, a Christian Evangelical religious movement, was to change his life. The movement, begun in Dublin in the 1820s by a group of prominent Christians, included Dr Edward Cronin, a pioneer of homoeopathy, Dr Edward Wilson, George Müller, founder of the Bristol Orphanage, and Anthony Norris, missionary to Baghdad and India, among others.
They felt that the Established Church had become too involved with the secular state and had abandoned many of the basic truths of Christianity. The movement spread rapidly and in 1831, by which time the membership had swelled to some 1,500, they met in Plymouth, England soon to be nicknamed the ‘Plymouth Brethren’.
Barnardo’s experiences in the ragged school, his continued preaching and teaching and his exposure to other philanthropists, James Hudson Taylor (1832–1905), the British Protestant Christian missionary, in particular, led him to choose a medical missionary career in China. With the help of his Dublin friends, Barnardo gained introductions and registered as a medical student in the prestigious London Hospital, now the Royal London Hospital, adjoining Whitechapel Road, in 1866.
Again, there is little information of his early years in London. He found residence in Stepney, close to the hospital, where he continued with his religious activities at the expense of his studies. In his first year as a medical student, in November 1867, he held the first of his many fund-raising meetings, the success of which enabled him to set up his own ragged school – The East End Juvenile Mission.
Famously, a young boy in the mission by the name of Jim Jarvis took Barnardo around the squalor and devastation of the East End. The images of children sleeping in the gutter and on rooftops so impressed Barnardo, that he decided to forgo his plans of work in China and dedicated himself to the destitute children of London. He walked the streets of the slum district and brought back to the mission destitute boys.
Within three years he opened the initial home for boys at 18 Stepney Causeway in 1870. The first 33 inhabitants were all older youths. Some could afford to pay, others were given work in the home whilst being taught how to fit into society. All the boys were treated equally, they were fed and clothed and prepared to face better lives.
In 1872, the year of the publication of his well-received book How It All Happened, he married Sara Louise (Syrie) Elmslie. A year later, with her enthusiastic assistance, he established the first home for girls, which opened at Mossford Lodge in 1873. It reached a peak in 1883 with the Village Home for Girls in Ilford, Essex, which was a complete community with 70 cottages, its own school, laundry, church and a population of over 1,000 children.
Meanwhile, his medical studies and status in the hospital suffered at the expense of all these extra-curricular activities. Fellow students complained of his religious enthusiasm and it took Barnardo almost a decade to take up and continue his medical career. A letter he wrote to the Justus Liebig-Universität Gießen, the University of Giessen, Germany in 1875, now in the archives of Barnardo’s in Barkingside, Essex, is both revealing and self-explanatory:
I became a medical student at the London Hospital in 1867 and entered Durham University the previous September and registered as a medical student in June 1868. I duly attended all hospital practice, medical and surgical for four years. In July 1869 I passed the first professional examination in anatomy and physiology at the Royal College of Surgeons, England, and hope to go up for the final examination in April next. The reason why I have not proceeded to qualify fully before this is that in 1870 I abandoned the study of medicine and took up the philanthropic work of rescuing destitute children from the streets of our great cities, much of the same character as your own celebrated Dr. Wichern of Hamburg.
Although I did not proceed with my studies I am generally called Dr. Barnardo and enclose my card … (I) shall be glad to know if you can allow me to be examined by your University early in December … Kindly let me know the subjects of examination. I can give testimonials of my professional knowledge etc., by respectable English medical men, if you will kindly tell me what you require, and I enclose in proof of the truth of my first statements two certificates of registration, which please return when you reply. Also state the amount of fees required…
Nothing appears to have resulted from this appeal and Barnardo continued his studies and obtained his diploma in April 1876 as a Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons. He returned to London and registered as a medical practitioner and exactly three years later, on 16 April 1879, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
He now dedicated himself with full vigour to the establishment of his homes and training schemes. He had initially rented canal-side warehouses and converted them to schools, later acquiring numerous properties in East London. He established an Evangelical mission church, set up facilities and provided for the disabled and those with special needs.
His commitments had become such that he needed ever more innovative methods to raise funds, often overrunning available resources. Here is where his particular expertise came into play. His great success relied on his capacity to organise mass charity events and raise funds for his projects. Much of the money for his schemes came, in small amounts, from a large number of donors, including children. They were encouraged to give through an organisation he founded in 1891 called The Young Helpers’ League.
At the time of Barnardo’s death, nearly 15 years later, the membership of the enterprise had grown to 34,000. Barnardo knew how to present his schemes and plans and gained important support in doing so.
A powerful and persuasive orator, he had already gained the support of Lord Shaftesbury (1801–1885) and of the banker, Robert Barclay (1843–1921). Shaftesbury Avenue, in the West End of London, was completed in 1886, and named in his memory. While using the course of existing streets, it demolished some of the worst slums, which Lord Shaftsbury had campaigned to eliminate from the area.
Thomas Barnardo was a controversial character by any standards. Some dispute his right to have used the term ‘Doctor’. He tended to ignore the various bodies and councils who set financial budgets and limits on the number of children to be cared for or ‘boarded out’. Boarding out was a fostering scheme started in 1887 when 330 boys aged between five and nine were sent to ‘good country homes’ far from the slums and parishes in which they had lived. In 1893 there were more than 2,000 children boarded out.
Barnardo was criticised for his lack of regard for what parents and the children themselves thought. He was an autocrat and imposed his thinking upon others. Another scheme, which was criticised and even resisted, was his plan to ‘board out’ illegitimate babies with their mothers, who were encouraged to go into service with an approved employer. Many charities refused to offer help to such mothers as it was seen as rewarding immorality.
A very important scheme of great concern and much criticised was that of child migration. Between 1882 and 1939 the agency sent over 30,000 children to Canada. The attitude of the agencies sending children to Canada, Australia and other countries was that they were providing them with a new start as they had no prospects in Britain and their families were seen as failing to provide adequate care for them.
Arguments were put forward that Dr Barnardo was the most influential figure in the child migration of the last half of the 19th century and he was accused of ‘spiriting’ children away to Canada against the wishes of their parents. This was emphasised by a number of court battles. Several more accusations were directed at Barnardo, many with no justification whatever: that the homes were badly managed; that the boys were cruelly treated; that there was no religious or moral training and that published photographs were falsified and intended to deceive the public.
Barnardo was also personally attacked and charged with improperly appropriating funds for his own benefit. At one stage Barnardo decided to go to arbitration under an Order of Court. In October 1877, the Arbitrators vindicated Barnardo, stating that there was no evidence to support any of the charges laid against him.
Thomas Barnardo was a great and charismatic philanthropist. He believed in what he did. He had huge abilities, especially to network and to present his work in a way that opened purse strings. He was a hard worker, with infinite projects and plans. And most importantly, he was exceedingly successful. It was inevitable that he would provoke gossip, speculation and even antagonism. His lifestyle took its toll and by the age of fifty Barnardo had some heart complaint. He ignored doctor’s orders to take a period of absolute rest and died on 19 September 1905 having spent a busy day and settled in an easy chair by the fireside.
The good he did lives after him.
Barnardo’s stopped running homes for orphans over 30 years ago, but the work today is based on the same set of values on which the charity was first founded. Since 1867 the services provided have changed and they will continue to do so in order to meet the needs of children and young people of today. However, the aim of helping children and young people in the greatest need, stays the same.
Selected biography and acknowledgements
Barnardo’s on-line: www.goldonian.org and www.infed.org
David Foster, secretary, Shadwell Clerke Lodge No. 1910, for special efforts.
John Hart, long-standing friend and mentor.
Bruce Hogg, for able and professional advice and proof-reading.
Hitchman, J. They Carried the Sword. The Barnardo story, Gollancz, London (1966).
Wymer, Norman. Father of Nobody’s Children, Longmans, London (1962)
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”.
Special events: the full 'Monty' at Grand Lodge
Freemasons' Hall continues to attract major commercial events, as Karen Haigh explains
Among recent star events that have taken place at Freemasons’ Hall (FMH) is Spamalot – the musical production of Monty Python’s famous Holy Grail and the Alternative Hair Show, the biggest show at Grand Lodge since opening its doors to events last year.
After being approached by Laughalot, the production company for Spamalot in May 2006 it was with a sense of optimism that we entered into the planning of the event with the organisers.
We knew from the beginning that the event was going to be fun, but we had no idea how wonderfully the building was going to be transformed for the West End hit musical, and how much the building would allow the parts of the show to come to life within its various areas assigned for the party.
Its creator, Eric Idle, one of the original Monty Python team, visited the building and was very impressed and from his suggested ideas for the party great detail went into the event, even down to what menus were used by caterers ‘Create’ on the night.
As the media interest began to build up for the opening night, there was great excitement that the Monty Python team would be re-united. On the night of the event many stars of the stage and TV came to Freemasons’ Hall, but the most memorable part of the evening was seeing the Monty Python team laughing and talking together within Grand Lodge.
The Alternative Hair Show is an annual event to raise money for sufferers of leukaemia. Organiser Tony Rizzo decided to utilise his expertise in the hairdressing world after the death of his son, Valentino, from leukaemia and the Show was born at Camden Palace in 1983.
In previous years the event has been held at the Royal Albert Hall and for the organisers to move the event to FMH was quite a challenge. It had taken months of preparation from them and FMH staff to make sure the event was a success.
It took from the Friday until the Sunday to transform the Grand Temple for this 90-minute theatrical show. Behind the scenes there were 19 teams from all over the world who were performing, and many areas within the building became dressing and make-up rooms.
During the Sunday evening there were three performances with an audience of 1,400 per show, and the final gala performance culminated with the appearance of Vidal Sassoon, who was heralded by a fanfare of trumpeters.
The event raised £162,000 for Leukaemia Research.
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.
Planting an idea: how Staffordshire masons planted a special garden at the National Memorial Arboretum is outlined by Peter Atkins
The simple, yet symbolic Masonic Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire is a permanent memorial to all brethren who gave their lives for peace and freedom.
Masonic involvement in the Arboretum started when Staffordshire’s former Information Officer, Roger Manning, realised the significance of Freemasonry supporting the concept and talked to members of his Lodge, St John’s of Lichfield No. 1039.
The Masonic Garden was adopted by the Lodge, which made the initial financial contribution and introduced the concept to the leaders in the Province. The then Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Thomas D C Lloyd, now Provincial Grand Master, committed his support and it was soon adopted.
By early 2002 sufficient money had been contributed by Lodges across the Province for a substantial plot to be bought. The site was dedicated in June that year, during Freemasonry in the Community week.
The Assistant Grand Master, David Williamson, assisted by the then Provincial Grand Master, Kevin Chawner, cut and turned the first sod in the presence of some 400 Freemasons, their families and friends together with local civic leaders and the Lord Lieutenant of the County.
Six months later a yew tree hedge was planted around the plot. Sadly it did not survive, and a second planting took place the following winter.
Around £20,000 has been spent so far and Staffordshire Masons gratefully acknowledge the contributions from the neighbouring Provinces of Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire and Cheshire.
More funding is needed to complete the garden which, in plans drawn up by retired architect and Deputy Provincial Grand Master John E Griffiths, includes a stone arch at the entrance.
Bro Griffiths, explaining his thoughts on the design, said: “It is a very open and exposed site and I wanted the ashlars to be protected as if they were in a forest glade, enclosed by a hedge, with one entrance.
When the hedge is fully grown, and we have the arch in place at the entrance, it will beckon people, draw them in, to see what I call the pearl within.”
The costs of the garden have been kept down by the contribution of Eddie Ford, a builder by trade from nearby Burton and a truly operative Mason, who laid the chequered paving and supervised the positioning of the two ashlars, each weighing three and half tons.
Bro Lloyd was on hand to welcome the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, when he made a detour to see the garden during an official engagement at another area of the Arboretum last October.
Peter Atkins is Information Officer for the Province of Staffordshire
National Memorial Arboretum
The National Memorial Arboretum was conceived by the founder director, David Childs, after visiting the USA and seeing the Arlington Cemetery and the National Arboretum in Washington DC. He thought the concepts could be merged into a meaningful living tribute in the UK, which would acknowledge the sacrifice made by the whole nation so that people could live in peace and freedom. Today, it pays tribute to those who died in war and also reminds people of the 80 million lives lost in conflicts in the 20th and 21st centuries. Warwickshire Royal Air Force Lodge No. 9456 created Masonic history when they held the first Lodge meeting at the National Memorial Arboretum on November 1, last year (2006). More than 40 members spent the day at the Arboretum, which began with a visit to the Masonic Garden and included a Lodge meeting in the Visitor Centre during which the Master, W Bro Paul Brennan, initiated his son Gary Stephen. The day ended with a Festive Board provided by catering staff at the Arboretum. The National Memorial Arboretum is open every day, except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, from 10am. Admission is free, and a visit is highly recommended.
In an exclusive royal interview, Michael Dewar talks to the Duke of Kent, particularly on the future of Freemasonry in his role as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England
Good Morning Sir, it is a great privilege for us that you have agreed to be interviewed for the inaugural issue of MQ Magazine. With all the emphasis in recent years on communication and information, do you think there is any reason why the United Grand Lodge of England has not up to now had its own in-house magazine?
There are probably very good reasons why it has not been possible. After all, we have a very large membership of over 300,000 people and simply finding them and keeping a record of where they all are would have been quite a task. With modern techniques of building databases, this has become possible at relatively low cost. This is a wonderful opportunity and I am delighted that we are now going to have this vehicle for communicating with all our members and, indeed, with a great many other people. I understand the magazine is not exclusively for Freemasons, so I warmly welcome this initiative. I hope it will be a great success.
The idea is that MQ will be part of the mechanism for reintegrating Freemasonry into the community. Its timing is quite apposite, as its launch is just before Freemasonry in the Community Week this summer. It is part of that process, and I hope that you feel it is a sensible way to go.
I think it is, and it will be most interesting to see the way it develops. But it must not be seen as just a way of telling Freemasons things that we want them to know, because it obviously needs to be broader and less exclusive than that. I think there is a scope for a magazine that allows Masonic issues to be freely discussed in a way they have not been in the past, together with a great many other subjects. I hope it will be as broad as possible.
You've had an extremely interesting and varied life; what is it that has encouraged you to include Freemasonry in it?
Like so many people, I grew up in almost total ignorance of Freemasonry, except that I was conscious of a strong family link, because my father was initiated when he was in the navy, and later became Grand Master, but not for long, because he died very early. Also his father and two of his brothers were Masons. Many people who join Freemasonry know very little and need to be inducted into it gradually. That's what happened to me. I found that as I learned more and more about it I became more interested and enthusiastic.
I know Sir that you were a soldier, and that you were commissioned into the Royal Scots Greys.
There was little choice in the matter. Those were the days of national service. I would have been required to do some sort of military service, but the army was not originally mt first choice. I wanted to be an air force pilot, but my maths and scientific abilities were not up to that standard, so in the end I settled for the army. I never regretted it, always enjoyed it. It was suggested to me at quite an early stage that it might not be a bad idea to look at the army as a career, and not just as a thing to do for a couple of years. That is why I decided to go to Sandhurst and do the thing properly, and I thought it was a good choice. It's a marvellous life, especially for a young person. Perhaps in those days there was rather more variety available than now, and perhaps the fun element was a little more prominent thirty or forty years ago. I think it is still a career that is very attractive.
Of course, your father was in the Royal Navy.
He was in the navy originally and then left after about 10 years. When the war broke out, he was called back to an Admiralty job and then eventually was asked to take over Royal Air Force welfare, which he did for about two years.
You may remember, Sir, that we shared an office in Victory College at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst a long time ago. Did you enjoy teaching young cadets?
Yes I did. Of course, it was a huge challenge teaching these young people, young men they were then almost entirely. Very varied material appeared at Sandhurst wanting to be officers, and lots of them came from overseas. I found it enormously stimulating thinking of ways of generating their interest and enthusiasm and trying to pass on some of the things one had been taught oneself.
Because one taught so many cadets one doesn't always remember them, but they tend to remember you. I'm always bumping into people I taught at Sandhurst. Does this happen to you occasionally?
It certainly does. Frequently I meet people who say "Oh yes, I was in your platoon", and of course, as you say, 99 times out of 100, I haven't the faintest notion who they are and I have to believe them when they say they were in my platoon. Just occasionally one can luckily remember the person. But it is rather fun to think that there is some sort of network of people whom one has known. I often also find that some people say to me that we were in the same intake at Sandhurst, but that is altogether an earlier vintage and stretches the memory even further.
Is there any particular highlight in your army career that you would like to recall?
There are probably quite a lot of highlights, but I suppose, in a way, commanding my squadron of the Greys and taking them to Cyprus, where we served for six months with the United Nations force, was certainly a highlight that I remember very clearly. That was in 1970. We were in Nicosia and had a nice little camp at the then airport, which later closed down after the Turkish invasion. This was before that, and we had the good fortune to have responsibility for patrolling the whole of Cyprus, which was quite a task for one small unit equipped with reconnaissance vehicles called Ferrets. We drove all over Cyprus and visited every village, and our soldiers made themselves known to every part of the island, and we were made very welcome. They found it a rather wonderful experience to be able to do that.
To turn to Freemasonry, was it relevant in your military career?
I don't think I would honestly say that it featured. I was aware that there were a number of army lodges - sometimes regimental lodges - but I didn't encounter one when I was serving in the army, so I can't say that there was any direct connection. But I do think that army life and Masonic ideas fit together fairly well; the ideas of discipline and integrity are perfectly complimentary.
In due course you retired from the army and became the vice-chairman of the Overseas Trade Board, and in that role you represented British industry on missions abroad and provided encouragement at home. How did you see that role?
One of the principal tasks of the Overseas Trade Board was promoting our exports. I attempted to further that objective by visiting many countries around the world, talking to their authorities and to British companies working overseas. At the same time I visited firms in the UK to see how they were tackling export business, or even to encourage them to take up exporting if they were not already doing so. I am not in a position to say whether my own efforts were at all effective, but I hope they had some effect. I certainly found it intensely interesting to see the really big change that occurred in the 25 years or so that I did that sort of work. From a perhaps slight complacency - one could generalise - that one found in the early 1970s there was a very much more determined and professional approach that developed in subsequent years. During that time, the UK did succeed in substantially increasing its exports, overseas and inwards investments, so the trends did move quite favourably.
In the past several decades the balance between the manufacturing and the service sector has changed in favour of the latter. Do you think that matters?
Yes, it's true that the total share of our economy and therefore of our exports taken by manufactured goods has been quite steadily falling over a long period. There is always arguments as to how much this matters. I don't like to see it declining, but I think that economic pressures make this largely inevitable. There is a constant movement of manufacturers to be based where costs are lower, say in the Far East or Eastern Europe. You can't prevent this happening, but you can try and create the best possible climate for manufacturing in the UK. You can also ensure that you do the things that really demand skill and brain power, as opposed to simply cheap labour, and this is something that we can still manage to do. We may find the things that require intensive brainpower and really seriously high qualifications are something that we can retain here, but we have, as you said, been developing our services sector and we do have a very strong position, especially in financial services. London is one of the great financial centres of the world, so there are pluses and minuses and one has to look at it as a whole.
Do you think London will remain for the foreseeable future the premier financial centre in Europe?
At present it certainly is, but I don't think one should be complacent about this. More banks and more investment houses seem to want to come and be established here. Partly it's a sort of rolling stone effect: because so many of the big American companies and banks and brokerage houses are here, others feel they must be here too. I hope that will continue, but we have to keep working at it and not assume that it will always be the case; that would be very dangerous and unwise.
Whilst you were travelling, either as Vice-Chairman of the Overseas Trade Board, or when you were in the military, were you able to visit lodges abroad and meet other Freemasons, particularly members of the English lodges abroad?
Whenever I could, yes I did. Sometimes simply by getting together with a group of them at a social occasion, other times by visiting their Grand Lodges. The English constitution exists in many other countries, and we need to show our support and encouragement for them throughout the world. The only time that I've attended a lodge meeting, I think, was in Gibraltar some years ago, when I went to the bicentenary of the Royal Lodge of Friendship there.
Do your duties as Grand Master take you abroad?
They have not taken me abroad specifically except, I think, for that one occasion in Gibraltar. But I've been fortunate to have been able to call on successive Pro Grand Masters and indeed other senior Masons over the years to represent me, and they've been very good and very active in doing that all over the world. All my Pro Grand Masters have been ready to travel to Africa, to India or Australia, usually to install other Grand Masters or senior figures. This maintains the connection and it shows our interest and faith in those lodges.
Another of your many roles is President of the All England Tennis Club and, until recently, of the Football Association. Does sport still play an important part in national life?
All these sports seem to have a large following, but how many people are active in sport is entirely another matter - perhaps not as many as there should be. We all regret that more children at school are not able to take part in sport, although I know it is officially encouraged. You only have to look at television programmes to see how much coverage is given mainly to football - and other sports as well - which is excellent. I handed over the presidency of the Football Association about 18 months ago to the Duke of York. I was president for about 28 years, and I've been President at the All England Club at Wimbledon since 1969. So that's a good many years as well, and although I'm deeply interested in the club at Wimbledon and those championships, I have to admit that I have not been a close follower of tennis around the world. I don't go off to the Australian Open or the USA Open, or wherever, simply because of a lack of time.
You will be pleased to hear that one of the articles in this issue of MQ covers this year's Wimbledon hopes for Tim Henman and all he's doing for British tennis.
Yes, he's a splendid ambassador for British tennis, and I would love to see Tim Henman win a Grand Slam Championship, which he hasn't quite managed to do yet. We all hope he will. But what we desperately need is more young Henmans and female equivalents coming along, and we don't seem to have very many of those at the moment. But a lot of effort is going into financing young people and much of that comes from Wimbledon, which produces many millions every year, which goes back into tennis.
One can't conduct an interview without referring to your royal duties, which have taken up a large part of your life, and which have been superimposed on all your other duties.
In a way it was quite an adjustment from being a full-time professional soldier to leaving the army and then doing a whole lot of other different things, but now it's a matter of working out a programme and just doing what needs to be done. I'm extremely lucky that people have asked me to be connected with different charities and a whole host of different organisations. I'm Chancellor of two universities, and I'm connected with schools and scientific bodies like the Royal Institution and medical charities and others, so there is a great variety of different things. No two days are quite the same. Recently, for example, I spent the day in Guernsey where I visited a concert hall which I opened about 15 years ago. I then met a group of Guernsey business men at lunchtime and in the afternoon I went to the Guernsey Lifeboat, because I happen also to be the president of the Lifeboat Institution. So that shows you the sort of variety that one can fit into a day's visit.
Turning back to Freemasonry, how has your role as Grand Master fitted into your life?
It's probably true to say that Freemasonry has taken a more prominent part in my life as Grand Master visiting groups of Masons around the country - on the whole not individual lodges - because I decided a long time ago that it would be very difficult to choose particular lodges. What I like to do is to go to Provinces and meet groups of Masons there, because one gets a better idea what they are thinking about. I try to meet as many as possible in an afternoon or evening. Another aspect is being involved in policymaking and talking to senior Masons about the future of Freemasonry and about problems as they occur; all in all it has consumed quite a large part of my life. But, I have been extremely fortunate in that I have been able to leave most of the day-to-day operations of the whole business of Freemasonry to my Pro Grand Masters. I've been extremely fortunate to be served by some wonderful people who have given a huge amount of time and energy to it, and by successive Grand Secretaries (the senior official who works full-time at Freemasons' Hall).
You mentioned that you were involved in policymaking. What do you think is the future for Freemasonry in a changing world - does Freemasonry need to change?
There have already been considerable changes. Most notably we have worked hard over these last few decades to encourage the idea that Freemasonry is not something entirely closed and secret. There is no doubt that principally during the Second World War - and in the years following - that the habit of secrecy and of withholding information had become very ingrained. That did Freemasonry a lot of damage because it also allowed this idea to grow up that we were a secret society, and that did imply that we had guilty secrets that we wanted to keep to ourselves, which made us the object of great suspicion. This undoubtedly did us a great deal of harm because once that sort of idea takes root, it is extremely hard to get rid of it. One still, unfortunately, encounters articles in books and even television programmes which suggest that we've been up to all kinds of malpractice such as shady financial dealings, where one Mason protected the interests of another. Such practices are strictly prohibited. So one of my main preoccupations along with my senior helpers has been to promote a more open climate and habit; this will take a long time to develop, but I believe we have moved quite a long way. We do now, for example, encourage people who are Freemasons to be completely open about the fact that they belong to the craft. We don't intend to publish lists of people. I don't think that's in any way necessary, and certainly it is wrong to force people in public office to declare that they are or are not Masons. We object to that, because we regard that as an intrusion on personal privacy, but we do encourage people to be completely open about their membership. The only thing that we seriously regard as secret and the proceedings in our own lodges, as these are entirely private matters which are not the concern of anyone outside. It's a matter of privacy rather than secrecy.
Do you think that the change in attitude which you've talked about to try and encourage more Freemasons to be more open will be a difficult task to accomplish?
It is never easy to change attitudes in a large organisation. You have to remember that within our membership of more than 300,000 there are many who have grown up with the tradition of regarding anything Masonic as a subject that was never discussed outside, and to expect them to alter that approach is something one needs to work on with patience but I'm confident that over time we can produce a change in attitude. In particular we need to work on the relationship between Freemasonry in the Community Week which we are launching this year. It is designed to make much clearer to people that the ideas of Freemasonry, of good works, honesty, integrity and charitable activities, do benefit society and are generally a force for good in the world. This is something that we can encourage all our members to devote time to.
Are the charitable aspects of Freemasonry important?
Our charitable work is very extensive. The Masonic charities last year raised £20 million, but the effort is not devoted entirely towards Masons or Masonic objectives. The amount given to non-Masonic causes is also very large. The Grand Charity exists very largely to make donations and grants to causes which are nothing to do with Freemasonry. It gives money to a whole range of charities and charitable activities. It amounts to millions of pounds every year and I would like that to be better publicised. I hope that this new quarterly magazine may find space to do this.
Do you see Freemasonry in the Community Week as a watershed in Freemasonry's relationship with the community?
It could well become so, yes. This is purely an experimental week. We hope that it will have beneficial results. It is a very important step for us, and something that could never have happened even perhaps 10 years ago, and certainly longer back would have been really unthinkable. It is something I personally strongly encourage, and I have great belief that it will be to our advantage and to that of society generally.
So what part will you be playing in the week?
There's an important service taking place in St Paul's on 18 June, which is designated to be multi-denominational, and I'm hoping to come to that. I think it will make an excellent start to the week.
Thank you very much indeed, Sir, for this inaugural interview in MQ Magazine, which is going to be the flagship for Freemasonry in the United Grand Lodge of England. It is excellent that we have your support.