Her Majesty The Queen received from His Royal Highness The Grand Master, on our behalf, a message of loyal greetings and congratulations on the occasion of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. Sixty years is a fantastic achievement, equalling Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897 when His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales was Grand Master. Let us not forget that Her Majesty is the daughter of a famous Freemason and Past Grand Master, the late King George VI.
Freemasons have consistently remained devoted and loyal to her Majesty throughout her reign. A great example of this, for any one of you who has attended meetings in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, is when up to seventeen hundred members sing the National Anthem with gusto. You cannot fail to be deeply moved.
The Grand Master, in his speech at the Annual Investiture at the end of April, explained why transparency is critical for Freemasonry and urges an active spirit of openness. You can read the full speech in this issue and see where The Grand Master picks up the theme of our two recent firsts. One was the commissioning of the first ever report by an independent third party on the future of Freemasonry, which was the catalyst for the second of our two firsts, namely the first ever media tour that I was given the privilege of conducting.
The theme is continued in two more articles where our public relations adviser explains how we have gone about changing the minds of the mass of people who have deep-rooted misconceptions about the myths that still surround us. If we want our families to be proud of us being members and if we want to show we are a relevant organisation to join, every effort must be made for these misconceptions to be got rid of.
This is followed by an article on what it was like to be on the ‘front line’ with the media – the Grand Secretary being interviewed around the country. Interestingly, I was hugely encouraged by the positive reception I received.
These examples are a true reflection of our respected magazine being the official journal of the United Grand Lodge of England. Apart from the clear benefit of reading what our leaders are thinking and the initiatives we are undertaking to ensure our long-term survival, be assured that all editorial is selected by senior and experienced Freemasons, who are renowned experts in masonic matters and news editing. The only non-masons involved deal in the commissioning of articles – after they have been selected by the editorial panel – or involved in design, printing and distribution. They too have been chosen for their recognised expertise.
I hope you enjoy this issue of Freemasonry Today. With the London Olympic Games just around the corner, we look at how Spencer Park Lodge is carrying the torch for masons who have an interest in sport and enjoy the camaraderie that Freemasonry brings. We also look back at the role that Freemasons played in the 1908 London Olympics, not just on the track but also in helping run the event behind the scenes. And for anyone not totally fixated on athletics, we find out whether Christopher Wren really was part of the Craft and how we let a hundred young people loose on Freemasons’ Hall.
I wish you and your family happy reading and an enjoyable summer.
Commonwealth Games medallist Mike Winch explains the history of Spencer Park Lodge and how it has managed to draw Olympic hopefuls like James Ellington into its fold
At first glance, Spencer Park Lodge is indistinguishable from any other post-war London lodge. It was formed in the wake of devastation, and founded on the camaraderie instilled by years of shared hardships. However, over the past sixty-six years, the lodge has counted runners, cyclists, football referees and sports coaches among its members.
One of its newest members is James Ellington. Under the watchful eye of another Spencer Park member, John Powell, James has forged his way into the Olympic relay squad as well as looking a good bet for an individual two hundred metres place. He finds Freemasonry an enjoyable release from life as an increasingly high-profile international athlete: ‘It’s a great way to switch off from a pretty high pressure life right now, and I’ve met some terrific people. The lodge is an ideal opportunity to do good while having a bit of fun with the other members.’
James is a great believer in giving something back, coaching disadvantaged youngsters in the Met-Track scheme in London, as well as doing as much work as he can within the lodge. Spencer Park can be proud of the fact that its members have supported James in his efforts and can look forward to watching him grace the Olympic stage. So what is it about the lodge that tempts world-class athletes?
Like most lodges over the years, Spencer Park has experienced several incarnations. It was formed in the 1940s and during the early years it was the founders and their candidates who kept the lodge solid and functional. In the late 1980s, the nature of the membership changed with an influx of prison officers from the local Wandsworth and Brixton jails.
The future looked rosy, but the light rapidly faded as the leader departed for northern shores. Fortunately, south London businessman, Mehmet Gursel-Cimen, a high-level weightlifter, joined Spencer Park at a crucial time. He encouraged me to look into masonry, and I joined in 1994. We formed the nucleus of the new direction that the lodge was to take, and indeed is continuing to take to this day.
Soon after my initiation, Russell Hart, karate player, and top-notch cyclist Simon McCarthy joined, giving us a firm foundation for a strong sporting future. My own success in international athletics included a couple of Commonwealth silver medals in the shot put, before moving into coaching.
In Freemasonry, I found men with competitive but also caring and loyal instincts. I was at home in the organisation and motivated to spread that word among friends and colleagues. By 2003, having occupied the Master’s Chair for two years, I slotted in as secretary, feeling this to be an ideal chance to work on expanding the sporting membership.
The first new member at this time was John Powell, an international coach with a squad of south London youngsters who were making waves in the sprinting world. John was a superintendent in the Metropolitan Police and a highly motivated man. Once on board he showed a strong commitment to the lodge. His influence extended into the younger generation, whom he encouraged to look at masonry in a new light. This started the lodge’s revival.
For many years, our organisation has been viewed with suspicion by the general public, and Spencer Park saw it as part of its raison d’être to spread a positive word. Although we are only a small part of the whole, it was felt that we could make a contribution towards helping masonry flourish by enlisting sporting youngsters in our activities.
The pressures of life for the younger generation are immense so the lodge instituted a commitment to a Lodge of Instruction with built-in flexibility to account for the difficult hours now worked by younger members. We also looked at bringing more sports coaches in to balance the younger intake. Two very important sportsmen became members at this time. Donovan Reid was an Olympic finalist in 1984 in Los Angeles. He moved from competing to coaching and has had many successes to his name in track and field over the past twenty-plus years. A close friend and coaching colleague of his, Clarence Callender, ex-army man and now Olympic team coach in the relays, also joined Spencer Park’s ranks.
The core of the membership continued to support this new direction. Terry Cover-White, who had joined from Rhetoric Lodge, became a central pillar and, along with John Hardy, formed the heart of the lodge. At this point, Mark Chapman joined our ranks. An international coach, he has been a major asset to Spencer Park, setting a superb example of how masonry and work can fit together harmoniously.
From the spark of an idea, Spencer Park has come a long way. Doubtless in the future it will take on other guises and strong membership groups, but in 2012, it is very much a sporting lodge.
|In 2007, Spencer Park Lodge’s senior members decided to promote the idea of a masonic celebration for the 2012 London Olympics. As part of this process, a study was conducted on how many masons had sporting connections. The results revealed strong links between Freemasonry and sport up to the highest level. Historically, that connection has influenced the development of sport worldwide and led to the setting up of many lodge and Provincial sporting groups. In the light of these findings, Spencer Park linked with the Royal York Lodge of Perseverance to organise a gala dinner at the Grand Connaught Rooms on 21 July this year to celebrate Freemasonry and sport. On 10 August, the two lodges are also hosting a joint meeting.|
It will be open to all regular Freemasons, including Brethren from overseas, and is particularly aimed at those who have an interest in sport. The proposed programme includes a reception in the Library and Museum at Freemasons’ Hall and a gala dinner.