In July 2015, 36 Scouts between the ages of 12 and 18 from the South Leicestershire Scouts visited Kandersteg in Switzerland for an International Expedition which was made possible by a generous donation of £1,500 by the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons
Kandersteg International Scout Centre is the world centre of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement. The centre began in 1923 with Lord Baden-Powell, who, after the first World Scout Jamboree, had a dream about a place where all Scouts from all over the world could meet: the Permanent Mini Jamboree.
The Centre allows Scouts to have an international experience in fantastic surroundings. The Scouts visiting from south Leicestershire participated in a week of International and Friendship Activities at the Campsite including river rafting as well as experiencing part of the Swiss Alps.
Jospeh, one of the Scouts who attended the Expedition said: 'This is best thing I've ever done in my life,' whilst Edmund asked after river rafting: 'We don't have to paddle back upstream do we?'
Robert Row, Contingent Leader for the South Leicestershire Scouts said; 'In Scouting, international activities play a huge part and scouts of all ages work towards badges to show their increased understanding of religion and cultures. They help our members to understand the part that they play in the worldwide organisation of Scouting. Their experiences will remain with them or the rest of their lives and we thank the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons for their help in giving them that opportunity.'
RW Bro David Hagger, Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland said: 'There are many similarities between Freemasonry and Scouting both providing a unique environment for people from all backgrounds to learn skills, make lasting friendships, and achieve their potential. We are therefore very pleased to have been able support our local Scouts on their expedition.'
Above and beyond
Sharing a core belief in the importance of mutual respect and helping others, Freemasons are supporting The Scout Association as it takes its message to more young people, as Peter Watts discovers
When Carlos Lopez-Plandolit took stock of his work-life balance and decided to volunteer for his local Scout group in East London, he initially planned to drop in for an hour each week. But, he explains, ‘I quickly got sucked in and within two weeks ended up leading the group. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.’
Lopez-Plandolit’s group is located in a struggling inner-city borough, and these are precisely the areas the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB) will target with its substantial new grant to The Scout Association. ‘We are giving a three-year grant of £211,200 to the Better Prepared initiative, which funds and sustains Scout groups in 200 of the most deprived parts of the UK,’ explains Les Hutchinson, CEO of the RMTGB.
The Scout Association plans to start 468 groups in these areas, and the RMTGB grant will get 66 of them started. Funds will pay for premises, uniforms, equipment, membership fees and training volunteers. Each new unit will receive £3,200, reflecting the greater level of support needed in areas identified as being deprived for reasons of poor health, education and crime by the Index of Multiple Deprivation.
With the first RMTGB-funded groups launching by the end of 2015, the grant follows a donation of £500,000 in 2008 to The Scout Association from the Grand Charity in a partnership that lasted six years. The money was used to encourage more young people to join the Scouting movement, providing start-up and activity grants. In total, more than one million young people received new materials and equipment paid for by the Grand Charity’s grant, with over 1,600 new Scout sections formed and 23,500 young people becoming involved across England and Wales.
For Hutchinson, the masonic funding is creating new opportunities: ‘The Scout Association has evidence that the skills Scouting provides can help with education and employment. Scouting really helps develop qualities that can make a difference later in life.’
Preparing for the future
Paul Wilkinson, the Better Prepared project manager, explains the strong educational thread that runs through The Scout Association. ‘Essentially, we’re trying to help young people grow and develop,’ he says. ‘We’re trying to help them take an active place in society, to learn to act with integrity, to be honest, trustworthy and loyal. We encourage them to have respect for other people and for themselves.’
Although Robert Baden-Powell was not a mason, the Scout movement he founded in 1907 has a strong overlap with the principles of Freemasonry. While some parallels are cosmetic, such as the use of signs, ranks, uniforms and regalia, others are intrinsic. Tony Harvey’s 2012 Prestonian Lecture focused on the connections between the two bodies. With both open to all – regardless of faith, race or background – Tony explained in the lecture how these two membership organisations share the same core values.
IN GOOD COMPANY
‘Our mission is to change young people’s lives for the better,’ says Wilkinson, ‘and we are pleased to be working in partnership with Freemasonry across the UK. The masonic community shares our vision to deliver life-changing experiences to all young people, no matter what their background.’
Hutchinson echoes Wilkinson’s sentiments: ‘The key aspects of Scouting are respect for your fellow man, having a strict moral code and doing the right thing. That’s a large part of Freemasonry too.’ Non-mason Lopez-Plandolit, meanwhile, attributes the appeal of Scouting to one key factor: ‘What I love about it is that it seems to focus on the common denominators across all religions; it is about being kind to the environment, to your friends and family. They are very pure, these principles.’
Despite the leisure opportunities available to children today, The Scout Association has found that once it establishes a local group, children flock to it. The next challenge is to establish groups in areas where poverty has been a barrier to joining or volunteering. ‘We appeal to young people,’ says Wilkinson. ‘We know that if we go in with the right messages, young people are relatively easy to recruit and some are desperate to join.’
Lopez-Plandolit sees first-hand how young people respond to joining. The Beaver Scouts, who are the youngest section of the Scouting family at six to eight years old, describe their meetings in East London as the highlight of their week, relishing activities such as kayaking and climbing. Lopez-Plandolit’s young group are multinational and this is something he celebrates through activities such as cooking: ‘The children cook something from their parents’ country and everybody has to taste it and say what they like.’
The masonic grant for the Better Prepared project marks a major commitment for the RMTGB. ‘It is a significant undertaking,’ Hutchinson admits. ‘While the shape of the Trust will change as the four masonic charities come together, this grant will leave a lasting legacy of support for children from deprived backgrounds – our remit is to support children in the wider sense, not just children of masons, and this will enable us to reach out to those who most need our help in a very effective way.’
‘The Scout Association’s mission is to change young people’s lives for the better, and the masonic community shares our vision.’ Paul Wilkinson
The RMTGB will keep a close eye on the project as it develops. ‘Part of the reason we are donating in three instalments is so we can maintain some control,’ says Hutchinson. ‘We will receive regular reports so we can see the impact of the funding, and discover publicity opportunities to raise the profile of the masonic charity and Freemasonry in general. We also want to ensure the grants are evenly spread across England and Wales.’
The final instalment from the RMTGB coincides with the 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England in 2017, and Hutchinson hopes that Freemasonry will take pride in the achievements of the initiative as it celebrates this important milestone. ‘We want to learn from each other,’ he says. ‘The Scout Association has a wealth of experience in working with children and will have practices we can use in our charitable work, now and in the future.’
While masonic contributions are being made at a national level, individuals can donate their time on a local level. An accountant, for example, could audit the books for their local group one night a year. The rewards are extolled by Lopez-Plandolit, who enthuses about his time as a volunteer with the Beaver Scouts. ‘They surprise you so much and are a constant reminder of how we should look at things as if it’s for the first time – to ask lots of questions,’ he says. ‘It’s a great outlook to have around me. I learn so much from them.’
From cooking on open log fires through to building shelters and geocaching, there’s rarely a dull moment at the 2nd East London Scout group (pictured). Based on the Isle of Dogs, the group meets at least three nights a week to play games, set challenges and prepare for their annual scavenger hunt, which this year saw Scouts from across the county raising money for Nepalese aid projects. With 130 members in the 2nd East London group, each night caters to a different age range. ‘We are Scouting every day of the week,’ says Vicky Thompson, Scout leader. ‘Our kids never need to hang out on the streets because, with the Scouts, there’s always something to do.’
Letters to the Editor - No. 32 Winter 2015
I picked up your magazine today and the picture on the front moved me. I have been involved with the Guide association ever since my daughter attended Rainbows, and both my boys attended the movement from Beaver through to Scout. Your picture has captured everything there is to say about Scouting. I am hoping that it has brought a cheer to many more faces while they flick through your magazine. Well done.
Marion Bell, wife of Stephen Bell, Legheart Lodge, No. 6897, Welling, West Kent
Can I thank you for the article on Scouting in the latest issue of Freemasonry Today magazine? I have been involved with Scouts since I joined as a Wolf Cub in 1957, now serving as an assistant commissioner for the Lincoln district, as well as being a Past Master of two Scouting lodges.
Scouting greatly helped me after becoming disabled in 1974 following a horse riding accident. The Scouts did not mind ‘Skip’ having a wonky leg and helped me overcome my disability. Today I think there is much I can give back; after all, I get as much fun as the kids do out of it.
You don’t have to be a uniformed leader to help the organisation. Uniformed leaders run the day-to-day programmes but need the support of executive committees to look after the management side of Scouting. As many Freemasons have good life skills, they could be useful at group, district or county level. My own district meets every other month for a couple of hours to deal with mixed issues, from starting new groups to controlling the budget and various district events.
Scouting is expanding and in Lincoln we have started two new groups within a year, with two more in the planning.
If you feel you might be interested in giving some time to Scouting, then you can look them up on their website.
Hugh Sargent, Rudyard Kipling Lodge, No. 9681, Horncastle, Lincolnshire
Fellowship, harmony and shared moral values – the parallels between Freemasonry and Scouting have been explored by Tony Harvey in his Prestonian Lecture. He speaks to Andrew Gimson about what the two organisations can learn from each other
Few speakers can have prepared themselves so thoroughly, or over so many years, as Tony Harvey did for his Prestonian Lecture, ‘Scouting & Freemasonry: two parallel organisations?’ It was through talking to a fellow Scouter in the 1980s that Tony’s interest in the Craft was awoken: ‘That conversation led to my initiation as a Freemason – while in Scout uniform – into Pioneer Lodge, the Scout lodge of Derbyshire, at the age of thirty-one.’ Now fifty-three, the lectureship has given him a chance to explore ideas that have been germinating since he was a boy. He takes the opportunity not only to explore the close historical links between Scouting and Freemasonry, but to stimulate a wider debate about how they can inspire and assist each other in the future.
Between February 2012 and June 2013, Tony delivered his lecture no fewer than forty-eight times to lodges in many different parts of England and Wales, as well as the Isle of Man, Iceland, South Africa and the US. He has ten more appearances booked, stretching out to September 2014, and is ‘very optimistic’ that people are already ‘taking up the challenge’ of what he has to say. He would like to take the lecture to all the Provinces in England and Wales.
Learn by example
In particular, Tony hopes Freemasonry will learn from the recent revival in Scouting, with which he has been closely involved: ‘Freemasonry’s numbers are in decline. It is experiencing what Scouting went through fifteen to twenty years ago. What Scouting did in the late 1990s was first to conduct a widespread consultation exercise (every member had the opportunity to contribute) and then to act on the feedback. It decided that the core of Scouting – its principles, values and purpose – should not change. But in order to make it more relevant and attractive to people in the twenty-first century, there was a need to simplify the way the organisation operates.’
The modernisation of Scouting saw it modify its youth programme and change its age ranges – an approach that has led to a growth in membership of between four and five per cent each year for the past seven years. ‘Scouting is still about citizenship and the outdoors, offering everybody everyday adventure, but it now has a structure and a programme much more attuned to today’s young people. We involve more volunteers to do smaller things, rather than a few volunteers to do a lot of things.’
The promise of change
The challenge for Freemasonry, Tony believes, is likewise to protect its core – its landmarks and its ritual – while making itself more flexible to suit the needs of someone still in their working life. ‘Meetings that start in mid-afternoon are not very accessible to the man in his forties who is still making his career.’
For the past four years, informal lunch meetings have been held at a national level between senior members of both organisations. Tony hopes to see such co-operation at local level, with lodges fostering links with local Scout groups, including those formed with start-up money from the Grand Charity: ‘What if every Freemason who ever took the Scout Promise gave a couple of hours back to Scouting?’
The Prestonian Lecture, the only official lecture given under the authority of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), is held in memory of William Preston (1742-1818), the greatest masonic educator of his day, and is intended to ‘instruct and entertain a general lodge audience’. Tony dispels the misconception that he had applied to deliver it: he was nominated without his knowledge.
Service to others
Tony is well qualified to be the Prestonian Lecturer. Within Scouting he has held roles at national and local level for thirty years and is a national volunteer with The Scout Association. Masonically, he has been Master of three Scouting lodges and is the Provincial Grand Mentor for Derbyshire. In May 2011, after his appointment, he began by writing his lecture in book form. It is published by Carrfields Publications and begins with the parallels between the organisations: ‘The first and foremost membership requirement of each organisation is that those who join must profess a belief in a Supreme Being. Freemasonry was originally specifically Christian, but de-Christianised over the hundred years following the formation of the first Grand Lodge. Scouting has never been specifically Christian. By not requiring the Supreme Being to be specifically the Christian understanding of God, both Freemasonry and Scouting became attractive to people from around the World. Each also became a place where people of different faiths could meet in fellowship and harmony, with shared moral values, despite their religious, social, cultural and national differences.’
The second moral principle the organisations share is service to others. Both confer awards for valued service, keep out of politics and are voluntary. In the UK, both have, in a senior position, HRH The Duke of Kent, who is Grand Master of the UGLE and president of The Scout Association. He follows other royal Freemasons who have also held senior positions in Scouting.
Tony recognises that there are key differences between the two organisations. Scouting is a youth movement, open to both boys and girls, while Freemasonry under the UGLE requires its members to be of mature age, and is open only to males. But it would be a mistake to give the impression that either the book or the lecture are unduly theoretical. Both are full of fascinating historical material, including a number of illustrations.
The largest audience for one of Tony’s lectures, just over two hundred people, was during his visit to South Africa. More typically he draws an audience of one hundred to one hundred and twenty. He speaks for about forty minutes and then takes questions, so that the whole event takes no more than an hour. Tony describes the reception he has received as ‘warm, engaged, enthusiastic, with good questions’, and was gratified when one member of the audience said to him: ‘I was absolutely fascinated and I sat through all two hours of it.’
Was Baden-Powell a Freemason?
The front cover of Scouting & Freemasonry: two parallel organisations? is adorned by a fine portrait of Robert Baden-Powell, the hero of Mafeking (the town that under his leadership withstood a siege of two hundred and seventeen days in 1899-1900), who founded the Scouting movement in the years from 1907.
Tony examines in detail whether Baden-Powell was a Freemason.
It is certainly the case that many of Baden-Powell’s friends and collaborators were. Rudyard Kipling, for example, whom he met in Lahore in the early 1880s, was initiated as a Freemason into Hope and Perseverance Lodge, No. 782, in India in 1886. As Tony points out, ‘Baden-Powell used Kipling’s Jungle Book as the basis for the Wolf Cubs when he and Percy Everett created Scouting’s junior section in 1916. Kipling also created the Grand Howl and defined how it should sound. He held an appointment as a commissioner for Wolf Cubs and was a member of the Scout Council.’
In a letter appealing to masons for funds, Baden-Powell said of Scouting: ‘Our principles are closely allied with those of the Freemason, being those of Brotherhood and Service.’ But Tony demonstrates that Baden-Powell never himself became a Freemason, partly for fear of offending Roman Catholic Scouts. He also shows that, despite this, Baden-Powell thought well of the Craft.
More than £30,000 has so far been raised from sales of the book, proceeds from which are being divided between two charities, the Masonic Samaritan Fund and The Scout Association’s archive development project.
The book can be purchased via www.prestonian2012.org.uk
As well as being an experienced Freemason, Tony has been a national volunteer with The Scout Association for the past 25 years, working in a range of areas including the recruitment and training of adult volunteers. He is also the Provincial Grand Mentor for Derbyshire and Director of Communications for the Derbyshire Festival 2014.
For the past five years, Tony has been the point of liaison between the Kindred Lodges Association and The Scout Association, aiming to promote a better understanding of Freemasonry within Scouting and of Scouting within Freemasonry. As two organisations with similar values and shared challenges, both The Scout Association and the United Grand Lodge recognise the potential that communication between the organisations has for the future and both endorse and support the work that Tony is doing.
In his Prestonian Lecture, Tony will outline the many similarities between Scouting and Freemasonry – as well as some key differences. His research examines the relationship the founder of Scouting Robert Baden-Powell had with Freemasonry and he will also identify some of the many Freemasons who have made a positive impact on the growth of the world’s largest youth organisation.
Tony will additionally describe some of the work that Freemasons are doing to support Scouting today and explain how Freemasonry can learn from an organisation that is growing in membership.
At times entertaining, at times challenging, Tony’s Prestonian Lecture will be of interest to all Freemasons, whether they have a Scouting background or not.