Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone

27 June 2019 
Introduction and welcome, Dr David Staples, UGLE's Chief Executive and Grand Secretary

Your Royal Highness, my Lords, Ladies, Gentlemen, Brethren.

Welcome to Freemasons’ Hall. Each year over 40,000 members of the public visit this building to learn a little more about the values and purpose of Freemasonry, and to marvel at this art deco masterpiece, one of the finest art deco buildings in London still used for its original purpose. It was conceived and built out of great conflict, as a lasting memorial to Peace, and to those thousands of Freemasons who lost their lives in the Great War. 

Those Lodges that contributed to the building of this great memorial are carved for posterity into the stones of its very walls, and the scroll of honour, the centrepiece of our building, just there, lists the names of our fallen. A closer look at those names shows that many Lodges held, amongst their memberships, NCOs, enlisted men and officers who would have met, and dined together, revealing something quite revolutionary at that time – that Freemasonry broke down the deeply ingrained barriers of class within British society. Those scholars of Kipling amongst you and those who are familiar with his poem ‘The Mother Lodge’ will recognise the same sentiments expressed within; that irrespective of the prevailing political and social climate, those of all races, classes, of differing religions, creeds and backgrounds have, for centuries, found a welcome within our Lodges. They are spaces where people could forget their differences and celebrate their common humanity with that most basic of human gestures – a handshake. They would be there for each other, through births and deaths, marriages, the good times and the bad as alluded to by the black and white squares of the floor carpet in every lodge room throughout the world. How ironic then that since that Great War, so many more lives have been lost, and so many more battles fought over those things which are seen, not as bringing people together, but as setting them apart.

Within our ritual, every Lodge listed on the walls around us has the right to bestow upon their Master a ‘Hall Stone Jewel’ to be worn during his period in office. I would like to read to you the part of our ritual pertaining to that presentation:

“The Hall Stone Jewel was conferred on this Lodge by the MWGM. Its form is symbolic, for on the side squares are inscribed the dates 1914-1918; four years of supreme sacrifice. In the centre is a winged figure, representing Peace, supporting a temple in memory of those Brethren who made the supreme sacrifice in the cause of King and their country. It should ever provide an inspiration to every Brother to put service before self.”

On this, the eve of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles which consigned to history the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers, we gather here to remember and honour those, our members, who were awarded the Victoria Cross. The Treaty of Versailles serves, as every student of history will tell you, as a potent reminder that our leaders’ best intentions can lead to events never conceived without the benefit of hindsight.

The Victoria Cross is awarded for “most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy”. It may be awarded to a person of any military rank in any service and to civilians under military command. It was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War. Since then, the medal has been awarded 1,358 times. The metal from which the medals are struck is traditionally believed to be derived from Russian cannon captured at the Siege of Sevastopol and latterly from two cannons captured from the Chinese during the first Opium War.

More than 200 Freemasons worldwide have been awarded the Victoria Cross since its creation, making up an astonishing 14% of all recipients and some of their citations may be read in your leaflets.

Freemasonry offers a simple philosophical message to its members – that within each of us is a thoughtful, kind, tolerant and respectful individual. The purpose is not only to promote virtue, but also to promote a thoughtful approach to being virtuous.  It is centred around an analogy of building, or creating, and thus by chipping away our rough edges, much as Emily has done to the rough quarried stone to reveal this within; Freemasonry teaches us to chip away at our inadequacies revealing the better person we can be, one more fit to serve those less fortunate than ourselves, those who have fared less well in life than us, and those communities from which we are drawn.  

As Herman Hesse said ‘What we can and should change is ourselves: our impatience, our egoism, our sense of injury, our lack of love and forbearance. Every other attempt to change the world, even if it springs from the best intentions, is futile”. 

That sounds very dry and serious, but Freemasonry is anything but. We have an enormous amount of fun along the journey, meeting people we would never have otherwise met, making friends the world over, and raising £48m for charity last year and donating and estimated 5 million hours of our time to community voluntary service

It is no wonder that so many servicemen, and women, through their two Grand Lodges, find a parallel between the lives they have led in uniform and the camaraderie, support and friendship they find within lodge. 

It is for those men and women, and those still serving, and in recognition of the very high regard that the members of the United Grand Lodge of England have always had for our Armed Forces, that I am delighted to welcome you all to the dedication of this Remembrance Stone. After today’s ceremony it will be carried to its permanent home in the South West staircase of our main ceremonial entrance (just over there), under the watchful gaze of a bronze bust of Bro Sir Winston Churchill, thereby aptly filling a space that has lain empty since this building was first conceived over a century ago. It will serve as a mark of our deep respect and gratitude to those who, for their comrades, their friends, their Regiments and Ships and their country, have put service before self.  May we have the courage, in our lives, and in our own little ways, to follow their example.

Published in Speeches

Presenting our past

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry’s Director, Vicky Carroll, tells Edwin Smith about some of the most important – and suprising – objects in UGLE’s collection, and explains how she’s taking them to a wider audience

Having worked at some of the best-known museums in the country, Vicky Carroll took up the role of Director of the Library & Museum of Freemasonry in November 2017. She admits that her target – of doubling the  Museum’s audience within five years – is ‘ambitious’, but Carroll’s credentials suggest that she’s the right person for the job. Having studied natural sciences at Jesus College, Cambridge, she stayed on to complete a Masters and then a PhD in cultural history before beginning her career at the prestigious V&A Museum in London. She went on to work at the Science Museum, the William Morris Gallery, Keats House in Hampstead and the Guildhall Art Gallery. Her passion, she says, is to give impressive collections the audience they deserve. ‘It’s seizing those opportunities to make stories and heritage more widely accessible, so that more people can benefit from them and enjoy them in a richer, deeper way.’

What was it about the role at The Library and Museum of Freemasonry that appealed to you?

When I first found out about the job, I didn’t actually know a huge amount about Freemasonry or the Museum itself. But the subject was intriguing and I wanted to find out more. I think that’s typical of a lot of people: they might not really know much about Freemasonry, but there’s a mystery there which makes it appealing. I think having that public curiosity is always a great starting place for a museum.

What did you make of the Museum on your first visit?

I was really struck by the quality of the collections; not just the Museum collection, but the Library and the archive as well. The richness and beauty of the objects was compelling. You can see why it’s been named as one of just 149 ‘designated collections’ by the Arts Council of England. [These are exceptional collections that ‘deepen our understanding of the world and what it means to be human’.] The combination of the public interest in the topic and the strength of the collection meant that there was a huge opportunity to engage a much wider audience – with the collection, with the stories, with the history of Freemasonry.

‘A lot of people don’t know much about Freemasonry, but it has a mystery which makes it appealing. I think that having that public curiosity is a great starting place’

Can you talk about the standout objects in the Museum?

We have documents showing the foundations of Freemasonry. They’re very important from a historical perspective. On display is a first edition of Anderson’s Constitutions from 1723. It’s the first time that what it meant to be a Freemason was officially recorded. Even older are the Old Charges. These are rule books for stonemasonry and go back to the 1500s. There is also the Articles of Union, the deed marking the unification of the Antients and the Moderns Grand Lodges in 1813. 

We’ve got Winston Churchill’s apron, along with objects associated with royalty – as there have been so many royal Freemasons. An exhibit you can’t miss on entering the Museum is the huge gilded Grand Master’s throne made for the Prince Regent, who later became George IV. But just as important are the humbler objects with stories to tell. We have masonic jewels made from scrap materials by prisoners of war. And our ‘Suitcase Stories’ display explores how Freemasonry has shaped the lives of individuals from different walks of life.

Have you discovered anything about Freemasonry that has surprised you since you started the role? 

I didn’t realise that there were – and are – female Freemasons. I was particularly struck by a display of mid-20th-century jewels from the Women’s Grand Lodge of Germany. They’re decorated with New Age symbolism and the craftsmanship is stunning.

What do you want visitors to take away when they leave?

There are a lot of misconceptions about Freemasonry. Many people simply don’t know what it is. We want to help our visitors gain a clearer understanding of Freemasonry’s origins, traditions and values, and an insight into what Freemasonry has meant for individuals and our society up to the present day. For members, the Museum is a great way to show family and friends what Freemasonry is all about. 

What attracted you to a career in museums in the first place?

It was something I became interested in whilst I was doing my PhD, when I was volunteering in various museums in Cambridge. One of the things that attracted me to it was the ability to reach a broad and diverse public audience and engage them with arts and heritage. Academic research is immensely valuable, but it has more of a niche audience. Whereas I was interested in creating things that had a wider public appeal.

‘For our special exhibitions, we’ve been very proactive in engaging with the press – in line with what UGLE is doing more broadly’

How do you give exhibitions as wide an appeal as possible?

It’s often just thinking about the subject from the audience’s point of view. What reference points might that audience have that are relevant? How does the topic relate to something they already know about? Even if someone doesn’t know a lot about Freemasonry, they might know about a particular period in time, or there might be someone they’ve heard of. Also, people like to hear stories about people. More traditional museum displays might tell you about an object: what it’s made of, when it was made and so on. But often what people find engaging is who might have used it and what it might have meant to that person. And Freemasonry is great for that. It’s all about personal experience and relationships – not just physical, tangible things.

How do you plan to double the audience in five years?

Our exhibitions and permanent displays must meet the needs of the audience, while raising our public profile. For one of our current special exhibitions, Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity, we’ve been very proactive in engaging with the press – in line with what UGLE is doing more broadly. We’ve expanded our social media and have an e-newsletter, which people can sign up to on our website. We’re developing a new visual identity and, later this year, will launch a new website.

What’s next for the Museum?

Our exhibition programme is obviously key in attracting more Freemasons as well as members of the public to come and visit. Our newest exhibition is called Decoded: Freemasonry’s Illustrated Rulebooks. It unlocks the early history of Freemasonry through the illustrations at the front of the Constitutions. These ‘frontispieces’ tried to sum up what Freemasonry meant and its place in the world. You can see how, at various times in its early history, Freemasonry was being adapted to the local and historical situations.

Anything else to look out for?

We’re a museum, but it’s important to remember that we also have a library and an archive, so we’re an amazing resource for members who are writing lodge histories, doing preparation for a visit overseas, or researching their own family history. We’re also encouraging more students and academics to use our collection, hosting more public events, and soon we will be expanding our educational work and collaborating with artists to interpret the collection. It’s a really exciting time.

For more details, visit www.freemasonry.london.museum

Published in More News

A feast for  eyes and mind

From the homemade to the exquisite, this is the history of Freemasonry made vividly alive

Nothing draws together the many facets of Freemasonry as well as the masonic jewel. The current exhibition at the Library and Museum at Great Queen Street illustrates three centuries of the Craft through its outstanding collection of jewels and reminds us how much lies behind each one of them, with their fascinating stories being told in detail.

There is everything from simple jewels handmade by prisoners of war to glorious pieces crafted in gold for Grand Masters. It exemplifies every aspect of masonic history and how Freemasonry became – and remains – crucial to the countries which formed the British Empire.

As well as lodge jewels from around the world, there are charity and consecration jewels, as well as those made for Past Masters and founders and many other artefacts. Some are exquisitely hand-painted or enamelled and are complemented by excellent accompanying notes.

The exhibition has rare items of masonic history, from Elias Ashmole, through the merger of the Antients and Moderns, to modern jewels. It is astonishing to see the initiate’s apron worn by the Prince of Wales in 1919, an improvised apron worn at the Siege of Ladysmith and Sir Winston Churchill’s apron.

For Freemasons, this exhibition illustrates the remarkable depth and range of the Craft, while for the non-mason it helps to connect three centuries of British history and explains the significance of Freemasonry with remarkable clarity. It would, if it were possible, make for a wonderful permanent exhibition.

Review by Richard Jaffa

Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity, at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, until 24 August 2019, free admission

Published in Culture
Wednesday, 12 September 2018 11:23

Pro Grand Master's address - September 2018

Quarterly Communication

12 September 2018 
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, it is a pleasure to see you all back after the long, hot summer, and I would like to particularly welcome again those younger members of our Universities Scheme and, indeed, anyone else making their first visit to Quarterly Communications this September.

Brethren, this year we will see perhaps the greatest change in senior leadership within the Craft that there has ever been - and I'm not of course referring to the three of us! No fewer than 12 Provincial Grand Masters and seven District Grand Masters will have retired and their successors Installed by the end of this year. With each Installation ride the hopes of not just the members of that particular Province or District but, to a certain extent, the success and longevity of the Craft itself. More than ever before we expect so much from our leaders. We hold them accountable for the guardianship of a heritage stretching back centuries, and also for the future of the Craft, its growth and development and, dare I say, the innovation and change needed to allow it to flourish and grow. 

If we are to attract and engage our membership, and those who might flourish as members, we need to be not only responsive to the society in which we live, but also mould and form the perceptions of that society. It is quite right and proper that I pay tribute and thank those who, often for a decade or more, steward and safeguard the Ideals of the Craft for future generations.

Historically we have been a melting pot for ideas, a Brotherhood where concepts at the forefront of science and social change could be debated. We have been fortunate to count amongst our members some of the greatest minds of any age, Alexander Fleming and Edward Jenner; Scott of the Antarctic and Ernest Shackleton; Pope, Trollope, Burns, Kipling, and, like Sir Winston Churchill, those who truly valued service above the external advantages of rank and fortune.

Then, as now, there was not a ‘Right’ way of thinking, but a respect for all ways of thinking - some orthodox, some challenging. If we, as an organisation have a ‘unique selling point’ ghastly expression, I know, we respect each other, irrespective of our beliefs.

I know that some of our members were uncomfortable with the direction the Law has taken on issues such as gender fluidity and the obligation that puts upon us as individuals who pay due obedience to the laws of any State which may for a time become our place of residence.

I know from the debates that have been held up and down the country that there are similarly a large number of you who feel that our response to recent changes in the Law is generous, decent and open minded and you applaud it. 

Throughout our history our members have held vastly different views on many different subjects. It is one of our great strengths to encompass this breadth of views. Unlike the echo chambers of social media, we meet people who are different to us, who think differently, but that does not set us apart, or put us at variance; it binds us together as it did for those many freemasons who have gone before us. 

Brethren, this is one of the many things that, in my view, we have to offer society, and that so many outside the Craft could learn and prosper from, and it is just one of the many reasons I am proud to be Pro Grand Master.

Published in Speeches

Miniature  manoeuvres

Freemason Bruce Graham Clarke’s military career saw him serving on a midget submarine in 1945, wading through thick mud in a bid to cut vital telegraph cables running under Hong Kong harbour

In 1944, a small fleet of six XE class midget submarines was built. Typically, each would have a crew of just four men: a lieutenant in command with a sub-lieutenant as deputy, an engine room mechanic and a seaman. They carried 20-pound limpet mines that were attached to the target by the qualified diver in the crew.

Bruce Graham Clarke was on one of these submarines, XE5, which included a fifth crew member (a second diver), when it was deployed in 1945 as part of Operation Foil. The mission: to cut the Hong Kong to Singapore telephone cable west of Lamma Island that ran under Hong Kong harbour. The result would be to force the Japanese to use radio and leave themselves open to message interception.

A public servant, dedicated Freemason and talented artist, Clarke was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his role in the operation. He was born in Edinburgh on 9 September 1922 into a military family; his father was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy serving on HMS Pembroke. Educated at Tower House preparatory and University College Schools in London, Clarke volunteered for the Royal Navy in 1941.

Clarke initially served on destroyers, escorting convoys in the North Sea and in the Mediterranean. He later saw service during Operation Torch, the invasion of Northwest Africa. In 1943, he volunteered for service aboard the Royal Navy’s midget submarines and, after training in Scotland, was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

A DIFFICULT MISSION

In July and August 1945, Clarke took part in Operation Foil, with XE5 towed into position by the submarine HMS Selene. Lurking beneath the waves off Lamma Island, XE5’s divers, Clarke and Sub Lieutenant Dennis Victor Mark Jarvis, were forced to work in thick mud and under the constant threat of oxygen poisoning. Meanwhile, Operation Sabre was targeting the Hong Kong to Saigon cable, which had been tasked to XE4. This sub was towed to within 40 miles of the Mekong Delta by HMS Spearhead

After a number of repeated attempts, the divers were still not completely certain that the cable had been cut. It was not until after the Japanese surrendered on 2 September 1945 – following the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – that it was confirmed the telephone cables had indeed been severed.  

In the book Above Us the Waves, Charles Warren and James Benson recall the mission: ‘Hong Kong was supposed to be blessed with clear water. It was most galling, therefore, for the crew of XE5 to arrive in the defended waters of Hong Kong after a very rough trip… and for the best part of four days... the two divers, Clarke and Jarvis, were working up to their waists in mud…’

In a report of the operation, the commanding officer, Lieutenant H.P. Westmacott, added, ‘Whilst trying to clear the grapnel, S/Lt Clarke had caught his finger in the cutter, cut it very deeply and fractured the bone. It is impossible to praise too highly the courage and fortitude which enabled him to make his entry into the craft in this condition. Had he not done so, apart from becoming a prisoner, it is probable that the operation would have had to be abandoned for fear of being compromised.’

NATURAL DIGNITY AND POISE

A month later, the war ended, and Clarke was posted to Minden in West Germany and put in command as physical and recreational training officer of the Allied troops. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his part in Operation Foil and subsequently demobilised.

After brief spells working in India and Africa, Clarke joined the Overseas Civil Service and, through a series of promotions and secondments, forged a successful career in Kenya. In 1955, Clarke married Joan in Nakuru, Kenya. The family moved to Aden in 1957; this posting for Clarke included a period as labour commissioner.

In 1962, Clarke retired from Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service. After a three-year contract as personnel manager for the East African Power & Light Company in Tanganyika, Tanzania, Clarke returned to the UK, settling in Boscombe in Dorset in 1967. A long-time Freemason, Clarke was a member of Winston Churchill’s lodge in London, United Studholme Alliance Lodge, No. 1591, and in 1986 joined the Lodge of Meridian, No. 6582, in Dorset, becoming its Chaplain for many years. 

One of the last surviving crew members of the XE midget submarines, Clarke passed away aged 95 in Dorset on 7 December 2017. During his last years, Clarke maintained the natural dignity and poise that he had demonstrated throughout his entire life.

Letters to the Editor - NO. 42 SUMMER 2018

Survivor's story

Sir,

Having just returned from my annual sojourn to Portland, I thought that I should drop you a line regarding the article in the summer 2018 edition of Freemasonry Today relating to the history of Bruce Graham Clarke and his experience in the X class boats. 

I always go to Portland on the 15-16 June for the annual remembrance service for those who lost their lives on the submarine HMS Sidon when a high-test peroxide-fuelled torpedo exploded on 16 June 1955. I am one of the very few remaining survivors. I took Freemasonry Today with me on the visit and discovered the very interesting and informative article.

I, as a UW2, having loaded four torpedoes at 5:30am, had left the fore-ends to report that all the fish (torpedoes) had been loaded successfully and all secured, when one exploded, killing all those who were forward of the control room.

The captain of the boat was Lt Hugh Verry, who served in X class (midget submarines) during the Second World War. I feel sure that he would have known Clarke, as Verry was one of the crew that stuck limpet mines on the German battleship, which was in harbour at the time. 

Verry died a few years ago, and I attended at the burial and interred his ashes in the RN Cemetery on Portland with those who died in 1955. I was able to relate to his wife and son the circumstances that led to the explosion and what happened at that time.

Bryan J Simpson, St John’s Lodge, No. 279, Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland

Grand Lodge regularly receives special visitors, and none were more welcome than a group of Chelsea Pensioners who were greeted by then-Grand Secretary Willie Shackell and Junior Grand Warden Sir Tony Baldry

On their tour of Freemasons’ Hall, the Chelsea Pensioners were taken around the Grand Temple, saw Winston Churchill’s masonic apron in The Library and Museum of Freemasonry and visited several lodge rooms.

Each was given the latest copy of Freemasonry Today, with some taking the opportunity to have a look around Letchworth’s, the masonic shop within the hall.

Published in More News

The Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Kent, officially opened the Library and Museum of Freemasonry’s newest gallery

Part of UGLE’s Tercentenary celebrations, the ambitious project took several months to complete. 

Among the beautiful treasures on show at the gallery are items belonging to such well-known masons as HRH Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex; Sir Winston Churchill; King Edward VIII; circus proprietor Billy Smart; and land speed record-holder Sir Malcolm Campbell.

Located at Freemasons’ Hall, the gallery includes the elaborate, monumental Grand Master’s gilded ceremonial throne, commissioned in 1790 for the Prince of Wales (later King George IV), the second royal prince to be a Grand Master. 

The gallery opens up into a lodge room, where the Grand Master unveiled a new plaque renaming it the Kent Room.

‘The exhibition aims to explain Freemasonry’s values of sociability, inclusivity, charity and integrity, as well as its history and development to the general public,’ said Diane Clements, then director of the Library and Museum. ‘We hope it will also be an enjoyable way for members to explain to friends and potential new members what Freemasonry is all about.’

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 12 September 2017 00:00

The quiet entrepreneur

As well as launching a television rental empire and revolutionising the British horse racing industry, Freemason David Robinson also shared his prosperity with worthy causes, as Paul Hooley explains

The culmination of more than a year of preparation, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 brought three million spectators to London’s streets to witness her procession. It was the first British coronation to be televised and the subject caused considerable debate, with Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill opposed
to the idea. Elizabeth was convinced otherwise, however.

The event highlighted public interest in television, but few people had been able to afford to purchase their own set – so Freemason David Robinson saw an opportunity. He formed a television rental business through his existing chain of shops, carrying out repairs in a pre-war workshop behind his garage.

Born in Cambridge in 1904, Robinson was the son of a local bicycle-shop owner. In 1930 he bought a garage in Bedford and developed it into a substantial business. Later, he opened a radio and electrical shop in the high street and then similar shops in several neighbouring towns.

By 1962, Robinson Rentals had expanded nationwide and was making an annual profit of £1.5 million. Robinson sold the business to Granada for £8 million in 1968, and turned his attention to his great love – horse racing. Over the next few years, he set up three separate and competing stables at Newmarket and purchased Kempton Park Racecourse.

RIDING HIGH

Horse racing in those days was something of a closed shop. But Robinson was his own man and had little regard for the racing establishment or the slapdash way in which the industry was run. He dismissed many antiquated ways of running stables and developing horses, bringing in his own methods.

Robinson revolutionised the ‘sport of kings’ and made it what it is today. He never bred horses himself but spent lavishly at the yearling sales, where his buyers were known as Robinson’s Rangers. He was always looking for a return on every investment, first on the racecourse and then on the resale of the horse as a stallion.

Robinson proved that efficient management could make horse racing profitable. He ranked all his horses, jockeys and the courses they ran on by colour – red, blue or green, according to ability – and woe betide any trainer who ran a red horse with a blue jockey at a green course. In the 10 years he was actively involved in horse racing, Robinson topped thenumber-of-winners table eight times, setting a new record of 115 wins in the 1973 season. At that time, he had 157 horses in training and his career total was a staggering 997 winners.

‘While Robinson’s charitable giving was legendary within the Craft, he never sought to go through the chair’

LASTING LEGACY

As spectacular as Robinson’s achievements were, it was his support of worthy causes and altruism that most impressed those who knew him. In Bedford, he paid for the building of an Olympic-sized swimming pool and sports complex, and in Cambridge his donations paid for a nursing home, an arts centre at his old school and new developments at Papworth and Addenbrooke’s Hospitals, including a maternity unit. When the Penlee lifeboat sank with the loss of the entire crew in 1981, Robinson paid £400,000 for a replacement and went on to fund a further three boats. He made many other donations – often anonymously – the greatest being the £18 million he gave to the University of Cambridge in 1973 to build Robinson College.

Although he accepted a knighthood in 1985, Robinson had little time for honours, social climbing or self-promotion. Equally, while his charitable giving was legendary within the Craft, he never sought to go through the chair, preferring instead to sit quietly among the backbenchers.

Robinson was initiated into Etheldreda Lodge, No. 2107, Cambridge, in 1929 and was made an honorary member in 1984. He was also a member of Robert de Parys Lodge, No. 5000, Bedford, from 1931 until 1982.

A devoted family man, Robinson married Mabel Baccus when they were both 18 and they had a son and a daughter. He led by example and was a remarkable entrepreneur and philanthropist, amassing a fortune so he could give it away to deserving causes. Robinson died in 1987 and was buried at sea by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Published in Features

As the sun shone down on Sulgrave Manor, classic cars from as far away as Yorkshire and South Wales were flagged off by W Bro Charles Bennett, Assistant Provincial Grand Master of Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire

This marked the start of the fourth and final Midlands route of the Classic 300.

The participants, on Sunday 27th August, followed a route taking them 78 miles from Sulgrave Manor – the ancestral home of Bro George Washington’s family - to the Blenheim Palace Festival of Transport - where Bro Sir Winston Churchill was born. 

On the way, the classic vehicles passed through the Cotswolds including Bourton on the Water and Burford. This route was organised by W Bro Dermot Bambridge and W Bro John Harmer – members of Silverstone Lodge No. 9877 and on the Classic 300 Midlands organising committee.

Before the first car departed from Sulgrave, W Bro Charles Bennett handed W Bro Peter Manning, Assistant Provincial Grand Master of Warwickshire, a specially made gavel to carry on the route.

The gavel was made from the con rod of a Jaguar D-type, which was the legendary model that won the 24 Hours at Le Mans for England no less than three times during the 1950s. This and four other identical gavels are being ceremonially carried by a car on each route.

The Classic 300 is a series of events for classic cars and was started by the Grand Master at Windsor Great Park in May. It is part of the Tercentenary celebrations of the United Grand Lodge of England and will finish at Brooklands on 1st October.

Published in More News

Two million historic Freemason records published online

Newly digitised collection offers fascinating insight into one of world’s most intriguing organisations 

More than two million historic Freemason membership records have been published online for the first time, revealing the names of some of the most famous and well-connected men in British history. 

Digitised by Ancestry, the world’s largest family history resource, the UK and Ireland Freemason Membership Registers 1733-1923 span 190 years and offer fascinating insight into the inner workings of one of the world’s most intriguing organisations.

Rich in detail, each record reveals the Freemason’s name, profession, residence, date of initiation or date that they joined the organisation, age at initiation and lodge location. Accordingly, this collection will be of vital significance for anybody looking to locate, or find out more about, a Freemason ancestor.

The records also feature numerous famous Freemasons, including: 

Oscar Wilde – Following his initiation on the 23 February 1875, Irish-born Wilde is listed as a member of the Apollo University Lodge, Cambridge. A novelist, essayist, and one of the most popular playwrights of his time, his novels The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest remain popular today. 

Sir Henry Wellcome – Scientist, businessman, philanthropist, archaeologist and collector, Wellcome is best known for his pioneering approach to medical research. His legacy, the Wellcome Trust, continues to provide grants to pharmacology departments to educate and train young researchers.

Winston Churchill – Appearing in the records at the age of 26, Churchill was initiated into Studholme Lodge on the 26 May 1901. He went on to become a British statesman, orator, author and eventually prime minister across the years 1940–45 and 1951–55. Many credit ‘British Bulldog’ Churchill for leading the country to victory in World War II.

Joseph Rudyard Kipling – Writer, poet, and novelist, Kipling's works of fiction include children’s favourite The Jungle Book and Kim. Born in Bombay, Kipling was initiated in the Lodge of Hope and Perseverance No 782, in Lahore in 1886. 

Novelists and scientists aside, further analysis of the records reveals that engineers, merchants and clerks were the most common professions of English Freemasons. Similarly, in Ireland, farmers, clerks and engineers make up the top three most frequently occurring member roles. A plethora of other professions also appear, not least 14,882 ‘Gentleman’, and even a solitary ‘Cloth Shrinker’. 

'As freemasonry approaches its 300th birthday in 2017, we are pleased to be able to provide access to details of past members. The records demonstrate the extensive involvement which Freemasons have had in British society at national and local level and I hope that they will provide a fascinating insight.' - Diane Clements, Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry

Miriam Silverman, Senior UK Content Manager from Ancestry comments: 'We’re delighted to be able to offer people an online window into a relatively unknown organisation. Whilst we can’t reveal the inner workings of Freemason ceremonies, what we can tell you is the details of over two million historic members. So, if you want to find out more about a Freemason ancestor or locate a famous member, now is the perfect time to get online and start your search.'

To search the UK and Ireland Freemason Membership Registers 1733-1923 and more than 16 billion historical records worldwide, visit www.ancestry.co.uk 

A part of the launch, Sir Tony Robinson took a tour of Freemasons' Hall with Dr James Campbell who was able to debunk some of the common myths surrounding Freemasonry

 

 

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