Celebrating 300 years
Tuesday, 15 May 2018 14:05

RW Bro Anthony Wilson 1950-2018

RW Bro Anthony Wilson died peacefully on Monday 14 May, after a long battle with cancer fought with great dignity

He was President of the Board of General Purposes for 13 years, retiring from the role at the end of December 2017, and had been President of the Committee of General Purposes for three years before that.

Anthony was born in 1950, educated at Eton, and subsequently qualified as a chartered accountant. One of the first audits he conducted was for The Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund, which sponsors research fellowships at the Royal College of Surgeons. Some 20 years later he became a Trustee of the charity, which is now known as The Freemasons' Fund for Surgical Research.

Initiated into Tuscan Lodge No. 14 in March 1976, Anthony was appointed Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1997, and served as President of the Committee of General Purposes from 2001 to 2004. 

He was appointed President of the Board of General Purposes in March 2004 and was instrumental in reducing the Board to a more manageable size and making it more effective, efficient and fit for purpose. He was promoted to Past Senior Grand Warden in April 2012.

He also played a prominent role in many events throughout our Tercentenary celebrations including the unveiling of the memorial stones to Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during World War I, through to the Especial meeting of Grand Lodge at the Royal Albert Hall where he was seated in the Royal Box with the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.

UGLE has sent condolences on behalf of all members of Grand Lodge to his widow Vicky and family.

Read Anthony Wilson’s interview in Freemasonry Today in 2014, where he revealed that modernising the business of Freemasonry was one of his proudest achievements.

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 14 March 2018 10:19

Pro Grand Master's address - March 2018

Quarterly Communication

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.

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge

14 March 2018 
Report of the Board of General Purposes

Minutes

The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 13 December 2017 were confirmed.

Election of the Grand Master

HRH The Duke of Kent was re-elected as Grand Master.

Grand Lodge Register 2008-2017

The tables below show the number of Lodges on the Register and of Certificates issued during the past ten years.

1

Charges for warrants

In accordance with Rule 270A, Book of Constitutions, the Board recommended that for the year commencing 1 April 2018 the charges (exclusive of VAT) should be as follows:

2

The recommendation was accepted.

Recognition of foreign Grand Lodges

The Grand Lodge of Amazonas, Brazil

The Grand Lodge of Amazonas was formed on 22 September 1904 by fifteen Lodges which had been regularly constituted by the Grand Orient of Brazil to meet in what is now the State of Amazonas. Those Lodges withdrew in a constitutional manner from the Grand Orient and were regularly constituted into a Grand Lodge with jurisdiction limited to Amazonas.

This Grand Lodge already recognises the Grand Orient of Brazil which recognises and shares territorial jurisdiction with the Grand Lodge of Amazonas by treaty dated 5 August 2002.

The Grand Lodge of Minas Gerais, Brazil

The Grand Lodge of Minas Gerais was formed on 25 September 1927 by eight Lodges which had been regularly constituted by the Grand Orient of Brazil to meet in what is now the State of Minas Gerais. Those Lodges withdrew in a constitutional manner from the Grand Orient and were regularly constituted into a Grand Lodge with jurisdiction limited to Minas Gerais.

The Grand Orient of Brazil recognises and shares territorial jurisdiction with the Grand Lodge of Minas Gerais by treaty dated 16 June 2000.

The Grand Lodge of Mato Grosso, Brazil

In 1976 the area of Mato Grosso in Brazil was divided into the States of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. The Grand Lodge of Mato Grosso was formed on 7 October 1978 by eleven Lodges which had been regularly constituted by what is now the Grand Lodge of Mato Grosso do Sul (which was recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England in March 2001). Those Lodges withdrew in a constitutional manner from that Grand Lodge and were regularly constituted as a Grand Lodge with jurisdiction limited to Mato Grosso.

The Grand Orient of Brazil recognises and shares territorial jurisdiction with the Grand Lodge of Mato Grosso by treaty dated 7 October 2000.

The Grand Lodge of the State of Baja California, Mexico

The Grand Lodge of the State of Baja California, Mexico, was formed on 5 February 1933 by three regularly constituted Lodges as the Grand Lodge of the Northern Territory of Baja California. When, in 1953, the territory became the State of Baja California the Grand Lodge changed its name to reflect that fact.

This Grand Lodge recognises the York Grand Lodge of Mexico, which recognises and shares territorial jurisdiction with the Grand Lodge of the State of Baja California and has stated that it has no objection to our recognition of the latter.

Having shown that they have regularity of origin and that they conform to the Basic Principles for Grand Lodge recognition, the Board, having no reason to believe that they will not continue to maintain a regular path, recommended that these four Grand Lodges be recognised.

A Resolution to this effect was approved.

The Grand Lodge of Albania

The Grand Lodge of Albania was formed in 2011 and recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England in 2013. In 2014 the Grand Master of Albania consecrated a Lodge in Kosovo, an action regarded by other Grand Lodges in the area as unwarranted and an invasion of territory within the Masonic sphere of the Regular Grand Lodge of Serbia.

At a meeting of European Grand Masters in Belgrade in June 2015, an agreement was drawn up and signed by the Grand Master of Albania that, inter alia, the Lodge in Kosovo would be withdrawn to Albania and he would enter into discussions with the Grand Master of Serbia as to the future development of Freemasonry in Kosovo. Since the signing of that agreement Albania has consecrated a further two Lodges in Kosovo.

The Board considered that it would be in the best interests of the Grand Lodge for it to suspend relations with the Grand Lodge of Albania while further enquiries are made into the situation and consideration is given to any necessary further action.

A Resolution to this effect was approved.

Erasure of lodges

The Board has received a report that 34 Lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. The Lodges are:

Skelmersdale Lodge, No. 1599 (London), Commercial Travellers Lodge, No. 3700 (Northumberland), Ruislip Lodge, No. 4301 (Middlesex), Davenport Lodge, No. 4391 (Cheshire), Bernicia Lodge, No. 4479 (Northumberland), Electra Lodge, No. 5124 (East Kent), Travellers Lodge, No. 5495 (KwaZulu-Natal), Deltaic Lodge, No. 5640 (London), Swinford Lodge, No. 5729 (Worcestershire), Lodge of Patience and Industry, No. 5781, (Middlesex) Saint Margaret’s Lodge, No. 5816 (Northumberland), Sir Galahad Lodge, No. 5897 (Cumberland and Westmorland), Langley Lodge, No. 5951 (Buckinghamshire), Merantune Lodge, No. 6149 (Surrey), Saints Peter and Paul Lodge, No. 6159 (Essex), Bona Fides Lodge, No. 6696 (London), Castle Lodge, No. 6713 (Durham), Field End Lodge, No. 6924 (Middlesex), Linthorpe Lodge, No. 7032 (Yorkshire, North and East Riding), Lodge of Security, No. 7299 (Northumberland), Daws Heath Lodge, No. 7466 (Essex), Bexley Marine Lodge, No. 7546 (West Kent), King David Lodge, No. 7667 (Durham), Ben Marsh Lodge, No. 7938 (Worcestershire), Cherleton Lodge, No. 8439 (Gloucestershire), Unanimity Lodge, No. 8669 (South Africa, Eastern Division), Sutton Coldfield Lodge, No. 8960 (Warwickshire), Gredington Lodge, No. 8982 (North Wales), Lodge of Light and Friendship, No. 9138 (Essex), Birchington Lodge, No. 9159 (East Kent), Wheatsheaf Lodge, No. 9170 (Cheshire), George Eliot Lodge, No. 9227 (Warwickshire), Meridian Lodge, No. 9653 (Devon), and Carlisle Castle Lodge, No. 9731 (Cumberland and Westmorland).

The Board recommendation that they be erased was approved.

Expulsions

3.22 As required by Rule 277 (a) (i) (B), Book of Constitutions, seven Brethren were recently expelled from the Craft.

Motion pursuant to notice: Amendment to the Book of Constitutions

The President of the Board of General Purposes moved that the Schedule to Rule 61 be deleted and a new Schedule be substituted on the appointments as Metropolitan Grand Officers and Metropolitan Grand Rank. The change to the Schedule was approved.

List of new lodges

List of new lodges for which warrants have been granted by The MW The Grand Master, showing the dates from which their Warrants became effective with date of Warrant, location area, number and name of lodge are:

13 December 2017

9960 Invictus Lodge York Yorkshire, North and East Ridings.

21 December 2017

9961 Oldham Lodge Singapore Eastern Archipelago (the previous Petition in respect of Lodge No. 9958 having been withdrawn).

Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge

A Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge is held on the second Wednesday in March, June, September and December. The next will be at noon on Wednesday, 13 June 2018. Subsequent Communications will be held on 12 September 2018, 12 December 2018, 13 March 2019 and 12 June 2019.

The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers takes place on the last Wednesday in April (the next is on 25 April 2018), and admission is by ticket only.

Supreme Grand Chapter

Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter are held on the second Wednesday in November and the day following the Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge. Future Convocations will be held on 26 April 2018, 14 November 2018 and 25 April 2019.

Published in UGLE

Memorial paving stones commemorating the 64 English Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross during World War I were unveiled outside Freemasons’ Hall

Roughly one in six of the 633 VC recipients during World War I were Freemasons. Of these, 64 were under UGLE and 43 were under Grand Lodges in the British Empire. 

The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, attended the ceremony for the stones’ unveiling and blessing, together with General Lord Dannatt representing the Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, the Mayor of Camden, senior officers from the military services, a group of Chelsea Pensioners and representatives from the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association, as well as representatives from the regiments in which the VC holders had served. Specially invited were the families of those being commemorated.

The event was open to the public, with Great Queen Street and Wild Street closed to traffic. The crowd included representatives from many of the service lodges. Music was by the Band of the Grenadier Guards and the North London Military Wives Choir. 

Radio and television presenter Katie Derham narrated the first part of the ceremony, which opened with Chelsea Pensioner Ray Pearson reading an extract from AE Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, followed by the then President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson warmly welcoming those attending.

‘The horrors of war were brought vividly to life by Sebastian Cator, who read from the diaries of Major Richard Willis’

Simon Dean OBE paid tribute to his grandfather Donald John Dean, who, at the age of 21, was awarded the VC in 1918. Col Brian Lees LVO OBE, chairman of the Rifles, Light Infantry and KOYLI Regimental Association, and Lt Col Matt Baker, Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion, The Rifles, paid tribute to Oliver Watson, who was posthumously awarded the VC in 1918.

The horrors of the war were brought vividly to life by Sebastian Cator, a pupil at Harrow School. He read from the diaries of Major Richard Willis, who had also been a pupil at Harrow, in which he described the carnage resulting from landing his men on W Beach at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. For his part in that action he was one of the famous ‘six VCs before breakfast’ of the Gallipoli landings.

The Grand Secretary, Brigadier Willie Shackell CBE, gave an exhortation that was followed by the last post, a one-minute silence and reveille. The stones were then unveiled and blessed by the Grand Chaplain the Rev Canon Michael Wilson.

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 13 March 2018 00:00

A showcase of art at Freemasons' Hall

The general public were invited into Freemasons’ Hall to view Rough to Smooth, a showcase of art inspired by Freemasonry past, present and future

The exhibition featured work by the United Grand Lodge of England’s first ever Artist in Residence, Jacques Viljoen, who had been given unprecedented access to objects and spaces throughout the historic Grade II*-listed building.

All of Viljoen’s subjects were painted from life, using traditional techniques and absolutely no photography. His work presents a new look at the world of contemporary Freemasonry, showing intimate moments that might usually go unnoticed. ‘This has been an incredible opportunity to explore an organisation with an intricate and ancient history,’ he said. Alongside Viljoen, nine guest artists were also given unique access to Freemasons’ Hall, working in different media that ranged from oils to photography. 

Renowned Norwegian oil painter Henrik Uldalen’s contemporary yet classic figurative art sat next to work by Lithuanian artist Elika Bo, who creates images by endlessly layering objects, while Nicholas Chaundy offered a technical homage to the painting techniques used in the many grand masterpieces that fill the Hall.

Then President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson viewed the artworks and commented, ‘What has struck me, above all else, is the amount of thought and work that has gone into each picture. The artists have demonstrated both an understanding of, and a variety of responses to, Freemasonry, its values and, in particular, our splendid building.’

‘This was an incredible opportunity to go and explore an organisation with an intricate and ancient history’ Jacques Viljoen

Published in UGLE

In late 2001, Lichfield mason Roger Manning suggested the creation of a masonic memorial to be sited at the new National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Burton-on-Trent

It was agreed by all that the masonic garden should serve in the remembrance of all Freemasons, whether they had died in the service of their country or through sickness, accident or old age. There would be no reference on the site to specific lodges, groups or individuals.

Sixteen years later, following four different Provincial Grand Masters, two architects, more than a dozen designs, planting failures, floods, dozens of detailed reports and many meetings, The Masonic Memorial Garden was finally unveiled on 18 April 2017 to more than 300 brethren and civic dignitaries.

The service was witnessed by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton, then President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson and Grand Secretary Willie Shackell.

A welcome to all in attendance was given by local builder and mason Eddie Ford, who had been responsible for the garden’s development over the entire 16-year period. The dedication service was then undertaken by the Provincial Grand Chaplain the Reverend Bernard Buttery.

Published in UGLE

Quarterly Communication

13 December 2017 
RW Bro Geoffrey Dearing to be appointed President of the Board of General Purposes

At today's Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, the Pro Grand Master, MW Bro Peter Lowndes, announced that the Grand Master has appointed RW Bro Geoffrey Dearing as President of the Board of General Purposes in succession to RW Bro Anthony Wilson.

RW Bro Geoffrey Dearing is the Provincial Grand Master of East Kent.

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication

13 December 2017 
Announcement regarding the President of the Board of General Purposes

Brethren,

I now have to announce that, at his request, the President of the Board of General Purposes will retire at the end of December this year.

It is with great regret that I have accepted this, and the Grand Master is pleased to appoint Geoffrey Dearing, PGM of East Kent, as President in his place.

Anthony has been President of the Board for the last 13 years and as President of the Committee of General Purposes for three years before that.

He was instrumental in reducing the Board to a more manageable size and making it more effective, efficient and fit for the purpose. At our Quarterly Communication meetings, he always manages to ensure that the Board’s Report is succinct, yet comprehensive, and his presentations cover all the salient points.

Anthony, we will miss your charm, easy manner of address and your wise counsel. On behalf of the Craft we owe you our most sincere and grateful thanks. Enjoy your retirement.

Pro Grand Master
Peter Lowndes

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication

13 December 2017 
A presentation by VW Bro Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary

At the Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge held in June 1945, the Grand Secretary read out a message from the Grand Master, MW Bro the Earl of Harewood:

It is my desire to have power to confer on Brethren who have rendered special service to Freemasonry a distinction to be known as The Grand Master’s Order of Service to Masonry, to rank immediately above the Grand Deacons, with the prefix Very Worshipful.

It is my wish that there shall be a limit to be determined from time to time by the Grand Master upon the number of holders of the Order. I propose that the present limit be 12.

The President of the Board of General Purposes at once moved amendments to the Book of Constitutions to give effect to the Grand Master’s wishes.

In the early years recipients were invested along with new Grand Officers, generally at the Annual Investiture, but occasionally when additional Grand Ranks were being conferred by way of celebration.

In December 1960, the then Grand Master, the Earl of Scarbrough, made a statement about the Order, 15 years after its institution, concluding that the Order of Service to Masonry would be more effective and be held still higher in the estimation of the Craft if it ceased to be one of the seventy-two ranks in our Masonic hierarchy of Grand Officers. I believe that Grand Lodge will agree with me that the Order of Service to Masonry should be set apart and that it should be possible to confer it upon any Brother without reference to his existing rank, or having any effect upon it.

The necessary amendments to the Book of Constitutions were duly passed, and in June 1961 two new appointments were made – of Brethren who were already Right Worshipful.

A year later, Lord Scarbrough announced in relation to the Order:

It has been in my mind all along that there are Brethren, not already Grand Officers or even perhaps members of Grand Lodge, whose work has nevertheless been of outstanding value to the Craft.

I have, I believe, found such a Brother, and I shall shortly ask the Grand Director of Ceremonies to introduce him into Grand Lodge.

He is Bro Reginald A. Easton, and he has been Secretary of the Whittington Lodge [in London] for 18 years. Largely by his efforts, the Whittington Lodge has built itself up a peculiar position with regard to Brethren of our own and other Constitutions overseas. The result is that the Whittington Lodge now has a world-wide reputation for its hospitality and the welcome it extends to visitors from abroad.

All this is, I believe, due to Bro Easton, who has, however, resisted all attempts to persuade him to accept other offices and reach the Chair, preferring to remain a Master Mason. Hitherto, he has debarred himself from any honour or preferment in Masonry by this attitude of self-denial, but the recent changes in the status of the Order of Service to Masonry enable me to do honour to one who has, I believe, in the truest sense done good service to Masonry.

Bro Easton was then escorted into Grand Lodge and invested.

Bro Easton remains the only Master Mason to be so honoured, but it can nevertheless be seen that the Order looks to a Brother’s service rather than to his rank. As a result, among the eighty recipients (as of today) there have been Brethren of widely varying seniority, but of whom each has made his own unique contribution to English Freemasonry.

The jewel itself, worn from a dark blue collarette, is of silver-gilt, being a double-circle with a pair of compasses extended on the segment of a circle, and the letters O S M; beneath it is the motto In Solo Deo Salus “In God alone is our safety”.

The limit of 12 members has never been increased and there are 12 jewels only in existence, each of which must be returned on the death of its latest recipient. The jewel allocated to each recipient is recorded in a small notebook, and it is the recent custom to give each recipient a list of the previous holders of the jewel with which he has been invested.

Published in Speeches

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.

Published in UGLE
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