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It was Stuart's many years in the Petitions Department which allowed him to witness the modernisation of the RMTGB
For most of the RMTGB’s 220-year history, its work has focussed directly on providing an education for the distressed sons and daughters of Freemasons. But in more modern times the work of the RMTGB has changed significantly. Stuart French, who retires from the RMTGB in April 2011 after a career lasting over 40 years, has witnessed many of these changes.
In April 1970, after responding to a job advertisement in The Evening Standard, Stuart found himself working in the Card Index Department at The Royal Masonic Institution for Girls. ‘At that time, we mostly provided an education for children at our boarding schools if a Masonic family had suffered a distress – usually the death of the father,’ recalls Stuart, who rose through the ranks of the Petitions Department to his current role of Grants Manager. ‘But over the years we realised that we had to do more.’
Although his career took detours to the Festivals Department and managing the RMTGB’s first steps towards computerisation in the early 1980s, it was Stuart’s many years in the Petitions Department which allowed him to witness the modernisation of the RMTGB firsthand. The most significant change was the decision to close the Boys’ School at Bushey and establish the Girls School at Rickmansworth as an independent school outside of the RMTGB’s direct management.
Stuart says: ‘A reluctance to send children to boarding schools meant the Trust moved towards providing greater financial support to where it is most needed – usually at the family home. Nowadays we tailor all of our support to meet the specific needs of the family – beforehand it was based solely on the child’s age.’
Stuart’s career has also seen the RMTGB’s work expand to include the TalentAid scheme, the provision of student accommodation at Ruspini House, Choral Bursaries and non-Masonic grant making to other children’s charities. He remarks: ‘During my time at the Trust we have always tried to ensure that our support remained relevant to the children of the time, and I have valued the assistance so willingly given by the many almoners and visiting brothers whom I have worked alongside and who ensure that our support is given where it is most needed.’