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.
Prince Michael of Kent was a visitor to Silverstone for the first round of the Vintage Sports-Car Club’s Formula Vintage race season
A member of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, Prince Michael was at the event to present the awards for the Stanley Mann Cup.
Also attending were 20 young carers from north Bucks – members of the volunteer-run group YC2, which provides respite for local young carers aged seven to 18 – who were guests of Northamptonshire & Huntingdonshire and Buckinghamshire Freemasons.
Dermot Bambridge of Silverstone Lodge, No. 9877, which meets at the Silverstone Recreational Association’s Pavilion, said, ‘Since the Silverstone circuit straddles the Bucks/Northants border, it was an ideal opportunity for the two Provinces to hold a joint venture in our Tercentenary year.’
A huge crowd of over 10,000 were in attendance with seven races, plenty of family fun and special guest Tony Hadley making up the second day of the Best of British Festival at Windsor Racecourse on Sunday July 2nd.
2017 marks the official 300th birthday of Freemasonry, celebrating how 300 years ago, on June 24th 1717, four London Lodges came together to form the Premier Grand Lodge. The Tercentenary is being commemorated with a calendar of high profile events including the Windsor Race Day.
In the bright sunshine, it was a glorious day of racing and free entertainment including a fun fair which further enhanced the family atmosphere. The special day ended with a fantastic evening concert by ex-Spandau Ballet member Tony Hadley.
During the course of the day, Richard Hone, President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, presented a grant award to Professor Sonia Blandford of the "Achievement for All" charity of £240,000 to help thousands of under-performing children in their education.
Provincial Grand Master of the Berkshire Freemasons Martin Peters said: 'This was a wonderful and very special celebratory event with over 4,000 Masons and their families and thousands of other racegoers enjoying an incredible occasion.
'From the many favourable comments I received there can be no doubt that we opened up the public’s perception of Freemasonry in a beneficial way. Myself and Peter Lowndes, the Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, would like to congratulate everyone who contributed to such a brilliant event to celebrate our Tercentenary - matched only by the glorious weather.'
Grant underlines core values
A £20,000 Masonic Charitable Foundation grant to the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) will fund a social care caseworker to help people affected by spinal cord injury reintegrate into society.
The cheque was presented by Buckinghamshire Provincial Grand Master Gordon Robertson, who said: ‘This is one of the many ways in which masonic core values of friendship, integrity and charity are used to benefit the local community.’
Caring for the community
Over the last few years Beaconsfield Freemasons have been holding a series of events for local carers, both young and old
Their latest initiative was a gymnastics party for 10-12 year old carers at Bracknell Gymnastics Club.
After meeting their three coaches for the day – Sacha Tomkins, James Langley and Charlie Dorrington, who took a break from training to represent Great Britain in the European Team Gymnastics in Slovenia – the 25 young carers did a bit of stretching before getting down to some real gym work.
As can be seen from the photograph, the youngsters committed themselves fully into the programme that was devised for them, under the watchful eyes of their coaches.
All this built up a healthy appetite ready for lunch in the restaurant, and a good day was had by all.
Special thanks go to Peter Tranckle, Manager of Bracknell Gymnastics for his help and assistance in the organisation and to the members of the Beaconsfield Committee who attended: Tony Dyckes, Graham Thorn, Rob Knock, Barry Sparks and Steve Matthews.
Bucks initiative raises prostate cancer awareness
To raise awareness of prostate cancer, Buckinghamshire Freemasons held PSA testing sessions at three masonic centres. PSA is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland and the test measures the level of PSA in a man’s blood.
The Buckinghamshire sessions invited any mason in the Province to bring a friend along and for both to be tested at no charge. Around 10 per cent of those tested had elevated levels and were referred on to their GPs. Tony Dyckes of Hall Barn Lodge, No. 8480, had a raised PSA, prompting further tests in December that confirmed he had prostate cancer. APGM Peter Moody and Teddies for Loving Care programme organiser Mel Shah brought the two initiatives together and presented Tony with a friend to keep him company in hospital.
Aylesbury children receive a boost
Children enjoying their end of term day at the PACE centre in Aylesbury welcomed Buckinghamshire Provincial Grand Master Gordon Robertson when he popped in to see the covered playground that local Freemasons had donated £10,000 to fund in action.
PACE is a family-centred charity that provides an innovative education for life for children with sensory motor disorders, such as cerebral palsy. The play area is part of the first stage of a building project that is eventually going to be the new Early Years and Independence Training Centre for the charity.
New university recruits in Bucks
The Universities Scheme is well underway in Buckinghamshire with Marlow Lodge, No. 2752, joining Grenville Lodge, No. 1787, in the recruitment of graduates and students. At its first meeting under the scheme, Marlow Lodge initiated graduate Jed Russell (23), and students Mohammad Malik (19) and Nathan Kapoor (24) from Buckinghamshire New University, which is based at High Wycombe.
Top marks for Universities Scheme
It was a special occasion when six students at the University of Buckingham joined Grenville Lodge, No. 1787, which meets on the campus, at the same time. Among the guests at the initiation were Past Assistant Grand Master and President of the Universities Scheme David Williamson and Buckinghamshire PGM Gordon Robertson. Lodge Secretary Andrew Hough said, ‘I am pleased that increasing numbers of people are recognising the advantages of joining Freemasonry, which stresses friendship, decency and charity. It’s also great fun.’
Not to be outdone, Castle of Leicester Lodge, No. 7767, has also undertaken a sextuple initiation ceremony. It was a fitting day for Master Bryan Weston in his final meeting, having initiated 13 brethren in 2014. The lodge has seen a steady influx of candidates since joining the Universities Scheme in January 2013. Indeed, the ceremony came just days after the lodge conducted a quintuple passing in the Leicestershire and Rutland Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 7896.
Support for Search Dogs
Buckinghamshire masons in the Slough area have donated £2,800 to Search Dogs, a charity that trains handlers and their animals to help Thames Valley Police find vulnerable adults and children who have vanished from their communities. Volunteers and their dogs are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to save lives throughout the area. Deputy PGM Mike Stimson commented, ‘We are supporting Search Dogs because the people involved demonstrate our shared values of friendship, decency and charity.’