14 March 2018
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, it is always a pleasure to see this magnificent temple as full as it is today, although it is hardly surprising bearing in mind the special nature of today’s meeting. Our Provinces and Districts, as well as those involved here at the centre, have taken a great deal of trouble in identifying those brethren most deserving of the honour that they have received today. I hope it has been a very special day for them and I really do congratulate and thank them. As always brethren, whilst congratulations are very much in order for all that you have done, particularly during the Tercentenary year, it also raises great expectations for your endeavours in the future.
We also have the Soane Ark back with us today. As those of you who were at the Tercentenary celebration at the Royal Albert Hall, (or those of you who read Freemasonry Today) will know, the original of this beautiful mahogany piece, the “Ark of the Masonic Covenant”, was made by Bro Sir John Soane in 1813. It was dedicated at the great celebration marking the Union of the Ancient and Modern Grand Lodges in 1813 and the Articles of Union were deposited inside.
It was tragically destroyed by fire in 1883, but UGLE commissioned an exact replica for our Tercentenary, which was dedicated at the Royal Albert Hall in October. Then, as in 1813, we placed a facsimile of the Articles of Union inside it, as well as the “Three Great Lights”.
It was on public display at the Soane Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the months after the Royal Albert Hall celebration, but now it has returned to its intended place in Grand Lodge. Triangular in form, it has at each corner a column of the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian order representing Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, the three great pillars on which our lodges, including this Grand Lodge, are said to stand.
I am sure that it will grace our Grand Lodge meetings for centuries to come.
We have become only too well aware of the term 'fake news' in recent times and we began this year with our own encounter with 'fake news'. Many of you will have seen the coverage generated by the outgoing Chairman of the Police Federation and the Guardian newspaper and I trust you will have also seen our responses. Let me assure you that UGLE will always stand up for its members, their integrity and their care for the communities from which they are drawn. It is my firm belief that policemen are better policemen for their membership of our proud organisation. However, it is not just policemen who can benefit from membership – lawyers, public servants and indeed all men benefit from the teaching our ceremonies have to offer, and the time has come for the organisation to stand up and make these points loudly and clearly. Enough, brethren is enough.
I have said it before and I say again I strongly believe that the future is bright for Freemasonry. We created a bow wave of optimism last year which produced a surge of interest in the Craft. We must now ensure that we maintain the momentum created and build on that legacy, and we will.
This year is very much a year of change, particular of key personalities both here and in the Provinces and Districts. On your behalf I welcome Geoffrey Dearing to his first Quarterly Communication as President of the Board of General Purposes and, in April, David Staples, our CEO will become our new youthful and dynamic Grand Secretary, bringing together all the activities here in Freemasons’ Hall. Already this year we have installed two new PGMs as well as new DGMs in New Zealand South Island and SA Western Division. Both John Clark from Buckinghamshire and Anthony Howlett-Bolton from Berkshire are able to be present and I welcome them to their first Quarterly Communication as Provincial Grand Masters. We now start a steady stream of installations: nine Provincial Grand Masters and ten District Grand Masters, plus many Grand Superintendents in the Royal Arch. This will keep the Rulers in both the Craft and Royal Arch busy this year as we catch up on the backlog.
Although we have plenty of ceremonial work to do, I am also keen that we continue to visit Provinces and Districts in a less formal way. We are here to provide help and support and we must show it.
This year, as you know, is the 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War – 'The Great War'. I have no doubt that many of you will be commemorating this, as appropriate in your area. This building was built to commemorate those masons who lost their lives in that war. It was called the Masonic Peace Memorial Building, but changed its name at the outbreak of the Second World War to Freemasons’ Hall. We shall commemorate the end of the First World War on 10th November 2018 under the auspices of Victoria Rifles Lodge and I am sure it will be an impressive occasion.
Brethren, I hope that today has been a memorable event for those I have invested. Many congratulations, once again, and remember there is no resting on your laurels.
More than 30 vulnerable young people will have the chance to transform their lives, thanks to a grant from Buckinghamshire Freemasons
Milton Keynes charity Ride High helps disadvantaged and vulnerable children by teaching them to ride and care for horses. They also deliver projects and activities to develop confidence and skills that many of the children lack, but desperately need, so they can fully participate in life.
The grant from Buckinghamshire Freemasons of £4,576 comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation and is helping Ride High to work closely with their teenage members and to encourage and support their future ambitions. Ride High seeks to instil confidence and to give the children opportunities such as work experience placements to broaden their horizons and give them something to aim for.
Since it was established in 2008, the charity has supported nearly 1,000 children across Milton Keynes and over 90% of leavers are in full-time education, work experience or employment and thriving six months after leaving.
Helen Dixon, Marketing and Fundraising Manager at Ride High, said: 'We are delighted to have received this generous grant from Bucks Freemasons. It will allow us to provide our older members with extra support, guidance, experiences and skills to give them a real chance at having a successful future career.'
Phil Blacklaw, the Assistant Grand Master for Buckinghamshire, commented: 'We are very pleased to be able to help Ride High in their hugely important work with some very vulnerable young people. Helping them at this crucial point can give them a much higher chance of making a success of their lives in the future.'
Young adult carers in Buckinghamshire are being helped to overcome social isolation and improve their wellbeing, thanks to a grant from Buckinghamshire Freemasons to Carers Bucks
The £20,000 grant comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation and will support the ‘Same Chances’ programme, designed to work with young people as they transition into adulthood and independence whilst continuing to provide unpaid care for an ill or disabled family member.
In the UK there are an estimated 700,000 young carers, 2,500 of them in Buckinghamshire. The Young Adult Carers service started in September 2015 with the target to support 50 young adult carers living in Buckinghamshire within the first 18 months. In just over two years, the Young Adult Carers team have connected with and supported double that figure within the county.
Young Carers Bucks believe a young person who is the primary carer for a family member should not have fewer chances for further or higher education and employment compared with their peers.
The Young Adult Carers team help young people overcome the barriers they may be facing, while knowing the person they care for is safe and looked after. The team offer regular Life skills sessions, support worker drop in sessions, social meet ups, targeted group work and one to one support. There is also a Young Adult Carers steering group, which gives young people a voice to share their experiences with other young people and professionals.
Sally Mansi, Young Carers Service Manager at Carers Bucks, commented: 'We’re very grateful to Buckinghamshire Freemasons for their generous grant. It will support 80 young carers as they move into adulthood, giving them some of the same life choices and opportunities as their peers.'
Mike Clanfield, Provincial Grand Charity Steward for Buckinghamshire, said: 'We’re very pleased to be able to support the Carers Trust in Bucks who do hugely important work with young people who are the primary carers for ill and disabled family members. These young people deserve the same chances as everyone else.'
Sir David, who is also President of the Universities Scheme, was escorted by Alan Baverstock, Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies. Also in attendance were Julian Soper, Deputy Chairman of the Universities Scheme, and Nigel Scott-Moncreiff, Vice Chairman of the Universities Scheme.
The Buckinghamshire Provincial Executive team was led by John Clark, the Provincial Grand Master on his first official visit, accompanied by Hugh Douglas-Smith, Deputy Provincial Grand Master and Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, Graham Dearing, Philip Blacklaw and Tony Robinson.
All the distinguished guests, as well as members of the lodge, then witnessed a Second Degree ceremony. The candidate Marco Davi was congratulated by the Assistant Grand Master and the Provincial Grand Master before the brethren retired to the dining room to enjoy the festive board.
This was the first time in the 120 years history of Marlow Lodge that one of the UGLE Rulers was in attendance and proved to be a lasting memory to all those present.
Over 500 Buckinghamshire Freemasons were present at Freemasons' Hall on 9th February 2018, where John Clark was installed as the Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Buckinghamshire
The Installation was conducted by the United Grand Lodge of England's Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence and the visiting Officers of Grand Lodge.
John Clark then Invested Hugh Douglas Smith as Deputy Provincial Grand Master and reappointed Graham Dearing and Phil Blacklaw as Assistant Provincial Grand Masters. Tony Robinson recited the Obligation and was also invested as Assistant Provincial Grand Master.
Alongside over 500 Buckinghamshire Freemasons, brethren from many other Provinces were also in attendance and following the ceremony enjoyed a banquet in the Grand Connaught Rooms.
Both the Deputy Grand Master and the new Provincial Grand Master thanked all those present for their attendance and delighted everyone with amusing speeches.
John Clark then presented Jonathan Spence with a pair of magnificent gold cuff links, replicating the Hall Stone Jewel.
During the ceremony, John Clark was also wearing the Hall Stone Jewel around his neck, with Buckinghamshire the only Province in possession of the gold and coloured enamel jewel on a dark blue collarette. This distinctive jewel was given to Buckinghamshire and the Districts of Japan (now defunct) and Burma (in abeyance) in recognition that every one of their lodges contributed an average in excess of five hundred guineas (£525.00) to the Masonic Million Memorial Fund.
This fund went towards establishing a memorial to the brethren who made the ultimate sacrifice during the First World War, which resulted in the erection of UGLE's current headquarters at Freemasons' Hall.
It is why Buckinghamshire is known as the only Hall Stone Province in English Freemasonry, and can boast the unique distinction of being the sole and proud wearer of such a jewel. Read more about the Hall Stone Jewels here.
As part of Freemasonry’s Tercentenary celebrations, Buckinghamshire masons hosted a picnic for children and their teddy bears in July at Drayton Parslow Sports and Social Club
Travelling from as far away as Southampton, members of Buckinghamshire Motorcycle Lodge, No. 9926, and the South East chapter of the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association arrived in a convoy to join members of the newly formed Buckinghamshire Classic Car Lodge, No. 9945.
They were joined by the Mayor of Milton Keynes, Councillor David Hopkins, and the Mayoress.
Hearts & Minds
For Ray Reed, past Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes and Past Provincial Grand Master of Buckinghamshire, the process of change that he helped to introduce within Freemasonry is only just beginning
What did your early career teach you?
I joined BP Chemicals straight from school and served a five-year apprenticeship as an instrument and electronics engineer before moving on to Reckitt & Colman when I was 23. The next 15 years were manic – two years after joining I was asked to set up and manage a new work-study department, followed by secondment as company negotiator with trade unions, then I became human resources director before becoming general manager.
Each move involved a new discipline and took me out of my comfort zone. I like the challenge of being thrown in at the deep end and rarely get stressed. If I had, I think I would have failed. These challenges opened my eyes to the fact most of what goes on in business management is common sense. Get a great team around you, identify what works, question what doesn’t, create a strategy and focus on improvement.
Equally, I learned that people at all levels love you to listen to and debate their ideas for improvement – it gives them confidence that they are part of the change process and makes them feel valued.
Why did you establish your own company?
By 1980 we were selling off the industrial division. Reckitt & Colman wanted me to stay but I was nearly 40 and wanted a new challenge, something completely different. Close friends thought I was mad.
My old sales director had left to do his own thing, working for an American company in psychological assessment. He asked me if I’d advise him on setting up a business, so I talked him into going to the US. Instead of working for the American company, we bought the franchise for the UK. About three years later, we found ourselves bigger than the US business, so we bought them out.
Family has been so important in the success of the business. My wife Doreen, who was a business partner, has been a vital cog from the outset and, after I retired in 2005, our son Martin has grown the business to become one of the top five assessment companies in the world. We are still a private entity and I continue to serve as a non-executive director.
What drove you to join Freemasonry?
I had been attending masonic social events from the age of 16 and always felt comfortable in the company of members. One day shortly after I married I asked my father-in-law, ‘What’s Freemasonry all about?’ I can recall his exact words: ‘I’ve been waiting for you to ask, I’ll get you a form. I can’t tell you what it’s about, you’ll have to trust me.’ In today’s fast-moving world such an approach would be laughed at, but that was the norm then.
Freemasonry was so popular in those days so I had to wait three years to be initiated, which just made me want it more. I joined Thesaurus Lodge [No. 3891] in North Yorkshire on 11 May 1967. It was the perfect lodge for me: great ceremonial, friendly and very encouraging with new candidates. I realised as a 27-year-old that while my business life was driving me into new areas and becoming ever more demanding, Freemasonry was developing me as a person, giving me a new-found confidence and a better understanding of my values in life.
Did you feel ready to become Provincial Grand Master?
No. Sadly, Lord Burnham died in office in 2005 and I received a letter asking me to take the role – not long after I had been appointed an APGM. There was no training, just a patent that told you to run the Province in accordance with the rules and regulations of the United Grand Lodge of England. And that was it, you were on your own. That suited me; it comes back to being thrown in at the deep end.
We identified member expectations through surveys, set a modernisation strategy that took account of these results, communicated them to members and then monitored the progress. Member collaboration was vital to the process – we set out to make masonic life more enjoyable, to improve our image in the local community and to market the Craft as a power for good within society.
It appears to me that succession planning is as vital at lodge level as it is at Provincial and UGLE level’
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve had as a PGM?
When I became Provincial Grand Master, the Past Pro Provincial Grand Master of Middlesex, Gordon Bourne, suggested I miss out the sweet course and coffee at the Festive Board in order to make time for talking to members. At first I thought, ‘This is a bit stupid’ – but within three months, members were coming up to me with really creative ideas to improve the Province’s image. It was a great success.
Gordon also suggested that at non-installation meeting dinners, I ask lodges to sit me with the five newest members of the lodge. That was magic; few realised the significance of the Provincial Grand Master role, so they talked openly and honestly. I heard their expectations, what they liked and did not like about their lodges and Freemasonry. The insights we collected helped convince Grand Lodge Officers to sit off the top table. It really broke so many historic barriers.
How important is the process of succession planning?
The second highest resignation levels in the Craft are those of Past Masters resigning shortly after completing their year in office. It therefore appears to me that succession planning is as vital at lodge level as it is at Provincial and UGLE level.
While there is no right or wrong approach to succession planning, lodges may well benefit from discussing the future aspirations with their lodge Masters well before they end their year in office. This should be done to ensure commitment and motivation, and in order to take any necessary steps to reduce the likelihood of resignation. One thing is for sure: if a member has an ambition toward a specific discipline – be it administrative, ceremonial or charitable – he is more likely to succeed in that discipline than in a role he has been cajoled into and does not really aspire to.
When did you become a member of the Board of General Purposes?
After a couple of years as a Provincial Grand Master I found myself sat next to Anthony Wilson, President of the Board, at a dinner. We had an enlightening discussion about Freemasonry’s past, present and future. Little did I know I had been recommended to him as a Board member and the next day I was asked to join. It was a complete shock and I embarked on another steep learning curve, but I loved being on the Board. We were all like-minded, giving our time freely and seeking to positively influence both the present and future of the Craft for our members.
How does change occur in the world of Freemasonry?
Historically, change has happened very slowly as we are a bottom-up organisation. Even small change in the past caused the shutters to go up. Members were perhaps fearful that there was a desire to change our traditions, which has never been on the agenda.Over recent years, Freemasonry has created a strategy for 2015-2020. Webinar technology has been tested and rolled out in the Provinces for member training and coaching, which can take place online at home. Even after one year of the strategy being communicated in 2015, membership loss dropped dramatically; indeed, several Provinces increased their numbers. This is a sure indication that members are getting behind the change process. We just need to win the hearts and minds of those who are yet to come to the party.
Prince Michael of Kent was a visitor to Silverstone for the first round of the Vintage Sports-Car Club’s Formula Vintage race season
A member of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, Prince Michael was at the event to present the awards for the Stanley Mann Cup.
Also attending were 20 young carers from north Bucks – members of the volunteer-run group YC2, which provides respite for local young carers aged seven to 18 – who were guests of Northamptonshire & Huntingdonshire and Buckinghamshire Freemasons.
Dermot Bambridge of Silverstone Lodge, No. 9877, which meets at the Silverstone Recreational Association’s Pavilion, said, ‘Since the Silverstone circuit straddles the Bucks/Northants border, it was an ideal opportunity for the two Provinces to hold a joint venture in our Tercentenary year.’
Breaking down barriers to learning for disadvantaged children, education charity Achievement for All has received its largest ever donation from the MCF
The Masonic Charitable Foundation has awarded a £240,000 grant to Achievement for All. The funds will support a project that will operate across England and Wales, directly helping 2,000 vulnerable children at 48 schools in each Metropolitan and Provincial area.
Richard Hone, President of the MCF, presented the grant to Professor Sonia Blandford, founder and CEO of Achievement for All, at a family fun day held at Royal Windsor Racecourse in July. The event attracted more than 10,000 people, who joined the Provinces of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire to celebrate UGLE’s Tercentenary year. Members of staff from the MCF and Achievement for All were there to witness the presentation.
Richard said: ‘The MCF is proud to give £240,000 to help Achievement for All with their hugely important work with disadvantaged children. I am very pleased to present Professor Blandford with this certificate, which commemorates our support. I congratulate her on the outstanding work of her organisation and wish Achievement for All every success in the future.’
Professor Blandford told the audience: ‘We are delighted that the Masonic Charitable Foundation has donated such a significant amount to our charity, the impact of which will reach thousands of children and their families across the 48 Provinces. We will be sharing progress of our partnership over the next two years.’
A huge crowd of over 10,000 were in attendance with seven races, plenty of family fun and special guest Tony Hadley making up the second day of the Best of British Festival at Windsor Racecourse on Sunday July 2nd.
2017 marks the United Grand Lodge of England's 300th anniversary; celebrating how 300 years ago, on June 24th 1717, four London Lodges came together to form the Premier Grand Lodge. The Tercentenary is being commemorated with a calendar of high profile events including the Windsor Race Day.
In the bright sunshine, it was a glorious day of racing and free entertainment including a fun fair which further enhanced the family atmosphere. The special day ended with a fantastic evening concert by ex-Spandau Ballet member Tony Hadley.
During the course of the day, Richard Hone, President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, presented a grant award to Professor Sonia Blandford of the "Achievement for All" charity of £240,000 to help thousands of under-performing children in their education.
Provincial Grand Master of the Berkshire Freemasons Martin Peters said: 'This was a wonderful and very special celebratory event with over 4,000 Masons and their families and thousands of other racegoers enjoying an incredible occasion.
'From the many favourable comments I received there can be no doubt that we opened up the public’s perception of Freemasonry in a beneficial way. Myself and Peter Lowndes, the Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, would like to congratulate everyone who contributed to such a brilliant event to celebrate our Tercentenary - matched only by the glorious weather.'