Following months of meticulous planning, 6th July 2019 was an early start for many Cheshire members in anticipation of the first procession through the streets of Chester in regalia for many years. The reason – to celebrate 150 years of Royal Arch Freemasonry in Cheshire
The Provincial Grand Superintendent, Stephen Blank, led a procession of distinguished guests, partners, family, friends, uniformed organisations and well-wishers through the streets of Chester from the Town Hall to Chester famous 13th century Cathedral. More than 800 attendees sat together to recognise and celebrate the Province of Cheshire’s’ Royal Arch sesquicentenary. Remarkably, it was noted that the Town Hall at the heart of the City was also 150 years old this year, so it seems 1869 was a busy year for Chester all round.
Guests attending the event included the Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire David Briggs, The Lord Mayor of Chester Mark Williams (himself a member of Cheshire Craft and Royal Arch) and from their own Supreme Grand Chapter they were delighted to welcome their Second Grand Principal, Russell Race, alongside their own Provincial VIP’s, including Deputy Provincial Grand Master David Dyson and Deputy Grand Superintendent for the Royal Arch in Cheshire J. Robert Bramley.
The service was informed, interesting, light hearted in parts and poignant in others – the preparation and execution was fabulous and congratulations were made to all those who had worked so hard to organise the celebratory event.
At the end of the service a small contingent visited the Chapel of St Erasmus to unveil a plaque detailing the work funded by Cheshire Freemasons to support the restoration of the famous mosaics originally produced by the prodigious railwayman Thomas Brassey – sadly water damaged over previous years, it will take an investment of almost £35,000 to secure these valuable works for future years, which Cheshire Freemasons have agreed to fund entirely.
Following the service, photos were taken of the brand new minibus provided by Cheshire Freemasons to local Scouts as well as an opportunity to meet the rider of the newly funded Blood Bike and his motorcycle proudly branded with the Square and Compasses.
Following a sumptuous lunch, it was announced that for the celebration of 150 years of the Royal Arch in Cheshire, Companions of the Province had committed a total in excess of £150,000 in order to support projects for the communities of Cheshire and beyond.
Later this year, on 26th October 2019, the Provincial Grand Chapter of Cheshire is 150 years old and will be celebrated at that time with the consecration of a brand new Royal Arch Chapter at Hulme Hall in Port Sunlight – the village created by none other than William Hesketh Lever, the First Viscount Leverhulme and himself a prominent Cheshire Freemason. 2019 will certainly be a year to remember and so far the celebrations are being thoroughly enjoyed by all concerned.
Neil Johnstone was installed as the new Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent of East Kent on 3rd October 2018
East Kent has just under 7,000 members, meeting in 189 Lodges at 35 dedicated Masonic Centres located everywhere from Gravesend in the north of the county to Hythe on the south coast, from Paddock Wood in the west to Ramsgate in the east.
Neil, who joined Renham Lodge No. 8211 in Sittingbourne nearly 40 years ago, said: ‘I am proud to be the Head of East Kent Freemasons, whilst there is a serious side to what we do, I continue to meet many wonderful people and enjoy some very worthwhile and fun social times.
‘I am also immensely proud of seeing organisation and individuals in Kent being helped with our Cornwallis Charity. This is very heart-warming as it helps to make such a difference to so many peoples lives’ and makes it so worthwhile.’
The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Grand Secretary Dr David Staples, Second Grand Principal Russell Race and Third Grand Principal Gareth Jones were all in attendance.
Neil had 33-year career in the Police Service followed by 11 years in Local Government. His police career started at Chatham, in the late 60s and early 70s. Neil progressed through various roles and ranks in Kent Police until 1992 when he was seconded to New Scotland Yard to head a national and international unit co-ordinating the many and various aspects of planning for, and responding to, major incidents and the complex investigation processes that inevitably followed.
Neil added: ‘I was very fortunate to travel throughout the UK and to many other countries around the world wearing an Interpol hat and although challenging, it was a fantastic and professionally rewarding opportunity to have had. My succeeding service with our County Council involved the planning for and co-ordination of potential large-scale incidents in Kent, but aimed at minimising the impact on the public and supporting the emergency services. So that was my working life in a nutshell.’
E Comp Jim Boughton was installed as the 13th Grand Superintendent in the Royal Arch Province of Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire on 28th February 2018
The meeting was attended by companions from chapters across the province, as well as a number of Grand Superintendents from other provinces.
This installation was honoured by the presence of the Second Grand Principal, E Comp Russell Race, who conducted the installation ceremony, assisted by E Comp Peter Kinder, Grand Superintendent of Leicestershire and Rutland, and E Comp Colin Brown, Grand Superintendent of Worcestershire. Once he had been installed, the Grand Superintendent appointed E Comp Neil Handley as Second Provincial Grand Principal, and reappointed E Comp Mike Coleman as Deputy Grand Superintendent and E Comp Mark Constant as Third Provincial Grand Principal.
Deputy Grand Scribe Ezra, E Comp Graham Redman, read the Grand Superintendent’s Patent in his own inimitable way and the Grand Director of Ceremonies Oliver Lodge ensured that the ceremony ran without a hitch.
Once the installation was complete, the newly installed Grand Superintendent addressed the convocation, thanking all those who had come to this special meeting. He spoke of how honoured he is to be leading the province and reaffirmed how he is looking to build upon the tremendous work of his predecessor.
A very enjoyable Festive Board followed the meeting and the Grand Superintendent presented the Second Grand Principal with a bottle of Kingswell Gin, Marmalade and Chutney, with the whole of the Installation team receiving a commemorative glass and bottle of IPA from the resurrected 'Phipps' Brewery as a memento of his Installation Convocation.
Despite the inclement weather, it was a fine day and the beginning of a new chapter for the Royal Arch Province of Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire.
Pause for thought
Having helped oversee the establishment of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, Second Grand Principal Russell Race now wants to give Craft members enough time to understand the Royal Arch
What have you taken from your professional career?
I did an economics degree at Liverpool and worked initially for British Steel, then for an administrative body looking after the fishing industry. When I was 24, I went into the City as an investment analyst. I was there for the rest of my working life, for the last 20 years in corporate finance, and retired in my early 50s.
I found my enjoyment was in building good working relationships, and ultimately friendships, with colleagues and clients – which, on the corporate side, is crucial. I had around 30 clients and if you did a good job for them, they would not seek to move somewhere else for a quarter per cent on a deal. And relationships take us into Freemasonry. It’s all about working with people, interacting with them and enjoying their company.
When did you find out about Freemasonry?
I was born in Gloucester, and the first 12 years of my life were spent there. My father joined a lodge just after the war and he went into the Chair in 1956, two years before we moved to Kent, where he became a founder of what became my mother lodge in Rochester.
Lodges had a big social calendar and as a teenager I went to many lodge events with my parents. When I came back from university at 21, and was still living in Kent, my father said to me, ‘Well, you know something about masonry and you’ve met many members of the lodge, so if you’re interested in joining, let me know.’ It was a very smart psychological move. Many fathers might have said, ‘Well, I’ve got you down to join at the next meeting, now you’re back in the area,’ but mine didn’t. I took about two years, got settled in a job, and then said, ‘I’d like to join.’ It was very much my decision, rather than feeling any obligation to join.
Did joining the Royal Arch feel like a natural progression?
I was 29 when I joined the Royal Arch, again in the local chapter in East Kent. I didn’t go into it with any preconceptions and I loved the ceremony from day one – despite being on the receiving end of all three lectures on the evening of my exaltation! In those days, the Royal Arch was considered the completion of the Third Degree, which is now an area of debate. But you could also just say it was seen as the natural progression from the Craft, which is something we rightly still emphasise.
The pressure on chapters was rather less in the 1960s and 1970s, because our numbers were higher than they are today, albeit beginning to level out. Chapters were thriving with 30 or 40 members, but it’s when you get below critical mass of 20 to 15 that you suddenly start thinking, ‘What do we do?’ It’s only at this late stage that many chapters try to re-establish links with the mother Craft lodge, which may be too late.
Why did you become involved in Metropolitan?
As a member of London lodges and chapters, I was aware that Metropolitan was being set up as a separate entity, but my move to London was a complete shot out of the blue. As East Kent Deputy Provincial Grand Master, I had met the Pro Grand Master Lord Northampton for the first time at a dinner. A little later, Rex Thorne asked me out to lunch in Long Acre, and when I arrived Lord Northampton was with him. To my surprise, he asked me to move up to London to become the first Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master.
I took some time to think about it because it was a new job and I knew the time commitment would be substantial. I asked the opinion of a few close friends who were unconnected with London, and they all said the same: ‘You can’t say no. It’s a great opportunity.’ Which indeed it was, but the workload proved to be quite heavy as well.
How did you feel leaving Metropolitan to become Second Grand Principal?
I think I made it known to people over time that Royal Arch is one of my great loves. Having completed six years as Metropolitan Deputy Grand Master and six years as Metropolitan Grand Master and Grand Superintendent, I knew it wasn’t a job I was going to do forever. I had a meeting with Peter Lowndes, who asked how I would feel about taking the position of Second Grand Principal, as George Francis was retiring. I paused slightly but, on this occasion, I didn’t ask for time to think about it, I said, ‘Yes, I’d love to do it.’ The best things in life come unexpectedly, don’t they?
For my successor as Metropolitan Grand Master, Sir Michael Snyder, the intention is to perform the role in a slightly different way, which I am sure is right. It was important in the early days of Metropolitan Grand Lodge for the rulers to be seen to be out visiting lodges and chapters on a regular basis and to be visible to all London masons. I was able to do that, but it wasn’t something that necessarily needed to be carried on at the same pitch, because London now has a firmly established base and identity.
‘We should continue to celebrate the great diversity of ritual practice within the Royal Arch’
What have you inherited from your predecessor in the Royal Arch?
I think one of the important things that George Francis brought to the job was being visible to companions all around the country, visiting widely in the Provinces and London. There is no substitute for hearing people’s views first-hand. Additionally, he was a keen promoter of making the ritual more dramatic and understandable for all participants.
What I would say is that we now need a slight pause for breath to allow the changes to sink in. We have a number of initiatives going on, following on from the ritual change a few years ago, and we have to get these embedded within each Province. Although there may be minor adjustments, I don’t envisage radical changes in the near term. We should continue to celebrate the great diversity of ritual practice within the Royal Arch.
In lodges where there is no active Royal Arch representative, or the Secretary’s not particularly keen on our order, the young mason coming through may have no awareness of the Royal Arch at all. Why should he be deprived of that experience? We need to ensure that all masons have the opportunity to join. I’m not saying you’re an incomplete mason if you’ve not come into the Royal Arch, but rather that your breadth of understanding is not as full as it might be.
Imagine when somebody’s interviewed for initiation and saying to them, ‘You are beginning an exciting four-stage journey.’ If you can get that message across on day one, it’s far easier than going to them after they’ve done their Third Degree and saying, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s another step and here’s a leaflet about it.’
Even if, on a flat Craft membership, we can increase the conversion rate to 45% or 50% across the board, rather than current rate in the high thirties, that in itself will take up our membership to more acceptable levels.
Do you see your role as ambassador or enforcer?
Gareth Jones, the Third Grand Principal, and I are certainly ambassadors. I think it’s about communicating to Superintendents and their Deputies, as well as to all companions, that we’re here to help and guide them in the right direction. I sense a strong desire for consistency across the piece, and that has to come from Supreme Grand Chapter. A Province or a private chapter can’t take effective decisions about the direction in which they are going unless they have the proper information to start with. I think it’s quite compelling if you say to a Grand Superintendent that these initiatives are available, they’ve worked in other Provinces – look at the results, maybe there are lessons for you.
I mentioned before about taking a slight pause, giving yourself the time to think. I saw a very good demonstration in Freemasons’ Hall some years ago. At various stages in the ceremony they stopped and said, ‘Right, we’re about to do this. Somebody tell me why we do it this way.’ And the members hadn’t thought about it. They were just hearing the words. That was in a Craft lodge, but the moral applies equally to the Royal Arch.
Every now and again it behoves us all to stop and think, ‘What do the words mean? Why do we do what we do, for example, in terms of choreography of the ritual?’ I would like to reverse the trend in numbers, which we are beginning to do in some areas, but I believe that will only come through companions having a better understanding, and with it greater enjoyment of our unique order.
Last Wednesday’s Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter was a special meeting as HRH The Duke of Kent celebrated his Golden Jubilee as First Grand Principal with a special investiture of Grand Ranks
Afterwards HRH The Duke of Kent was photographed with the Pro First Grand Principal, Second Grand Principal and Third Grand Principal to mark the occasion.
Retirement dinner for George Francis
After 10 years as Second Grand Principal, George Francis has retired. To mark his retirement a dinner was held at Freemasons’ Hall in London for those Grand Superintendents that he had installed. Also present was his successor as Second Grand Principal, Russell Race.
Out of the scrum at Northampton
A record number of attendees were at the 2015 Convocation of the Provincial Grand Chapter of Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire, in Northampton, where the guest of honour was Second Grand Principal George Francis. At the Festive Board, Grand Superintendent Wayne Williams presented him with a ‘refill’ for a previously bestowed cut-glass decanter, and a Northampton Saints rugby shirt bearing the number two and the name ‘Francis’. The Second Grand Principal said he was pleased to visit the Province in which he had started his masonic career at Castle Ashby many years earlier.
11 November 2015
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, I am very pleased to see so many of you present today to witness the Installation of Most Excellent Companion Russell Race as Second Grand Principal. On behalf of all of you I wish him a long and happy tenure in this important role.
It is to the future that we should now look, but I would like to repeat my thanks to Most Excellent Companion George Francis for his many achievements and tireless work in raising the profile of the Holy Royal Arch since his own Installation in November 2005.
Companions, today, apart from celebrating the Installation of a new Second Grand Principal you will all be aware that it is also Armistice Day when we commemorate those who gave their lives in two World Wars. The observant amongst you will have noticed that a poppy wreath has been laid at the memorial shrine in the first vestibule to this Grand Temple, in front of the casket which holds the roll listing over 3,000 of our members who gave their lives on active service in the First World War.
I think it is worth reminding ourselves, however, that it is not just the shrine which is the memorial but the whole of Freemasons’ Hall itself. Indeed, during the planning stages in the 1920s and the first years of its existence, the building was known as the Masonic Peace Memorial.
As a memorial it was originally intended that the building should be reserved solely for masonic purposes but time and economics and the fact that the building is now Grade 2* listed both internally and externally have gradually led to the building being opened for non-masonic events and filming.
I would assure you however, companions, that our excellent and hard-working in-house events team take great care to ensure that outside events, especially filming, are consistent with the building’s origins and core purpose. We have a building of which we can be justifiably proud which is recognised as one of the landmark buildings of London.
Today we remember not only those in whose name the building was raised but also the many other thousands of our members who gave their lives during the Second World War and the other conflicts that have taken place since then. Although we have already stood in memory of recently departed members, in particular Most Excellent Companion Iain Bryce, Past Second Grand Principal, I believe that on this special day we should stand again to remember those who gave their lives to preserve those ideals which allow Freemasonry to flourish.
Companions, on September 30th this year, a packed Grand Temple enjoyed a magnificent Inaugural Concert to celebrate the refurbishment of our organ and when Supreme Grand Chapter is closed I am sure you will enjoy the talk by Ian Bell, Organ Consultant entitled ‘Achieved is the Glorious Work or Proof of the Pudding’, with musical illustrations played by Excellent Companion David Cresswell, Grand Organist.
Thank you, companions.
Missed by many
After a short illness Iain Ross Bryce, Past Deputy Grand Master and Past Second Grand Principal, died peacefully in hospital on 30 June aged 79
Educated at Bridlington Grammar School, Iain Ross Bryce trained in accountancy, becoming a Fellow Chartered Accountant and joining Ernst & Young, where he rose to senior partner and ran the Hull office. After national service with the Royal Engineers, he enlisted in the Territorial Army, becoming colonel and earning the Territorial Decoration.
A keen yachtsman, Iain served as treasurer, chairman and president of Bridlington Royal National Lifeboat Institution and was for many years the charity’s national treasurer. A well-known and popular figure, he was involved in many community organisations in the town and was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of the East Riding of Yorkshire.
A lifelong friend commented: ‘He did a great deal for Bridlington, mostly behind the scenes. He had a very kind nature and many people in Bridlington have received his help, mostly without knowing it.’
In Freemasonry, Iain was active in the Province of Yorkshire, North and East Ridings, serving as Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent from 1984 to 1991. Appointed Deputy Grand Master and Second Grand Principal in 1991, he served for 13 years during which time he gave wise counsel and strong support to the ‘top to bottom’ overhaul of the administration of the Craft. He also did much to bring the masonic charities together, laying the foundations for the major changes taking place.
A big man in every sense, Iain had a great love for and enjoyment of life, but always said that he could not have achieved anything without the great support of his wife Jan and their family.
He will be much missed by many.
We regret to announce the death of RW Bro Iain Ross Bryce, TD, DL, Past Deputy Grand Master, on the afternoon of 30 June 2015.
RW Bro Bryce served as Deputy Grand Master from 1991 until 2004, and in Supreme Grand Chapter ME Comp Bryce served as Second Grand Principal from 1991 until 2005.