Celebrating 300 years

Jayson on a roll for world record

A drummer beat the world record for the longest single drum roll – but ended up in hospital as a result. Jayson Brinkler started the roll at 3am and played for 12 hours, five minutes and five seconds – despite injuring his wrist just days before. The eight-time British champion drummer smashed the previous record by five minutes and two seconds to see him achieve his childhood dream of securing an individual place in the Guinness World Records. 

Jayson, 44, who was raising money for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, performed the drum roll at Highfield Baptist Church in Dartford. 

He has previously performed on children’s TV show Blue Peter and at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. 

Published in RMTGB

Something old, something new

The discovery of an old manuscript could reveal elements about Royal Arch ritual that have remained hidden for almost two centuries, as John Hamill discovers

As we prepare to celebrate the bicentenary of the acceptance by the whole Craft of the Royal Arch as being both an integral part and the completion of ‘pure ancient masonry’, a significant discovery has been made about the development of Royal Arch ritual.

In a large box full of old files and papers, in a strongroom at Freemasons’ Hall, was found a packet containing a slim, foolscap-size volume, bound in red leather with a Royal Arch symbol blocked in gold on its cover. Bound into it were fourteen sheets of paper closely written on both sides.

What immediately caught the eye at the top of the first page was the word ‘Approved’, followed by the florid signature of HRH Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, First Grand Principal 1810-1843, and the letters GMZ. The letters stand for Grand Master Zerubbabel, an alternative title for the First Grand Principal in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. At the foot of many of the pages the Duke’s initials appear, followed by the letters GMZ, and on the last page he had written ‘Approved. Newstead Abbey Nottingham November 2 1834’, followed by his full signature.

Newstead Abbey, once the family home of the poet Lord Byron, had been sold to Colonel Thomas Wildman, Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire 1823-1859, and the Duke of Sussex was staying there as his guest.

The manuscript proved to be an introduction covering the testing of a candidate for membership of the Royal Arch and the ritual for the opening of a chapter, the admission of a new companion (including the Principals’ lectures) and the closing of the chapter. Having been approved and signed by the Duke of Sussex, it leaves no reason to doubt that the manuscript was the work of a special committee he set up in 1834 to establish what were the ceremonies of the Royal Arch. And herein hangs a tale.

Striving for unity

In 1813 the original Grand Chapter gave its First Grand Principal, the Duke of Sussex, full authority to make whatever arrangements he deemed necessary and proper for the Royal Arch once the of the two Grand Lodges had taken place.

The Grand Chapter did not meet again until 1817 – I suspect because the Duke was concentrating all of his efforts on ensuring that the Grand Lodge was successful – but its administrative officers continued to keep in contact with its chapters, who continued sending in their returns and their fees.

The so-called Antients Grand Chapter, which had never been more than a committee of qualified members of the Antients Grand Lodge, ceased to exist once the Craft was achieved, but its former lodges continued to work the Royal Arch as part of their lodge business.

In 1817, the Duke of Sussex summoned the original Grand Chapter and the members of the Antients’ former Royal Arch and ‘united’ them into the United Grand Chapter, a name that lasted a very few years until the present title of Supreme Grand Chapter was adopted. The administrative links between the Craft and Royal Arch were put into place but little else was done.

Reforming ritual

In 1834, there being some doubt as to what the proper ceremonies were, the Duke of Sussex set up a special committee to investigate and recommend to the Grand Chapter what they should be. This they did and their deliberations were approved by both the Duke and the Grand Chapter. It was ordered that they should be adopted by all of the chapters then in existence and those that might come into being in the future.

‘had it been known that the Grand Chapter had a written version of the agreed 1834 ritual, a fine storm would have ensued’

The special committee was given a time-limited charter as the Chapter of Promulgation, its remit being to give demonstrations of the ceremonies in London to which chapters were invited to send representatives. Therein lies the possible reason why this manuscript disappeared from view for so long.

At that time, ritual was passed on by rote and it was a heinous masonic crime to write down or print ritual material. Indeed, a number of characters, such as William Finch and George Claret, were charged with breaking their obligations by printing portions of the ritual or catechetical lectures. Were it to have become known that the Grand Chapter had a written version of the agreed 1834 ritual, a fine storm would have ensued.

With the seeming absence of any formal record of the special committee’s 1834 instructions, a certain degree of mythology has grown up. The discovery of this manuscript will enable us to establish what did happen and will greatly increase our knowledge of how Royal Arch ritual developed.

Published in More News
Thursday, 15 March 2012 00:00

the new age

It’s an acknowledged fact that Freemasonry is facing a challenge in recruiting young masons in the UK. But what is the Craft doing to address the issue? Adrian Foster goes in search of answers

For some, the term ‘young Freemason’ is an oxymoron on a par with ‘clear as mud’ or ‘honest broker’. However, a quick search on the internet for ‘young Freemasons’ reveals dedicated Facebook and Twitter sites that point to a new generation who are looking to discover the fraternity and relevance of the Craft.

The Connaught Club’s website proclaims that it has been founded to give young Freemasons in London a means to meet and socialise with like-minded people of similar ages who might otherwise be dispersed over London’s many lodges and large geographic area. Chris Hirst, chairman of the club, explains how it was established: ‘The vast majority of young Freemasons I meet tell me that they are the youngest member of their lodge by twenty, thirty, even forty or more years and, that although they enjoy the company and friendship of the other members, they sometimes feel left on the periphery. This in turn can lead to disillusionment with the Craft and this is exactly what the activities of the Connaught Club are meant to counteract.’

Chris explains that the club was formed to address a gap identified by the Metropolitan Grand Lodge over the lack of a focus for young brethren. ‘It was felt that although our fraternity transcends differences in men, including age, there is still a particular affinity between brethren of a young age. Our non-masonic events are social occasions offering young Freemasons the chance to meet with each other. At open receptions at Freemasons’ Hall, we congregate in and around the Grand Temple. Non-masons are welcome at these events and they have proved to be useful for introducing potential members to the Craft and for showing wives, girlfriends and partners a little about Freemasonry.’

Social Freemasonry

With membership open to any Freemason under thirty-five, the club has an annual picnic on Lincoln’s Inn Fields for friends and family too. It also meets more informally on the first Friday of every month at a pub local to the Freemasons’ Hall for after-work drinks. ‘We do not have recruitment of new Freemasons as a principal objective of the club, but this has occurred quite often as a result of our activities,’ concludes Chris.

Jayson Brinkler, of The Campbell Lodge, No. 1415, offers an insight into what his lodge is doing to connect with young people: ‘Our meetings, which take place at Cole Court, Twickenham, are renowned within the Province for their social events, encouraging brethren to invite non-masons along to join in the fun. These events raise money for charity as well as encouraging our non-masonic friends to ask us questions about Freemasonry in a relaxed and friendly environment. The sort of events include an annual barbecue, golf, clay pigeon shooting, a ladies’ festival – and we recently hosted a discussion meeting about English Freemasonry where twenty-two non-masonic guests attended, nineteen of them ladies. If other lodges followed our example, the Craft would certainly become a lot more vibrant,’ suggests Jayson.

In 2010, Jayson helped to establish The Kent Club – named after Grand Master the Duke of Kent – and became its secretary. Like the Connaught Club, The Kent Club is a social hub that enables young Freemasons between the ages of thirty-five and forty-nine to mix and socialise with brethren of their own age. This initiative, which is supported by Metropolitan Grand Lodge, has a committee that includes an events secretary who organises social events such as masonic talks, an annual dinner and monthly informal drinks. With partners and non-masonic friends encouraged to attend, The Kent Club has gained a membership of around ninety in its first year, clearly showing that it is meeting a need among the younger fraternity.

‘English Freemasonry is doing what it can, but it is the responsibility of individual lodges to find new and inventive ways to attract younger people into the Craft,’ says Jayson. ‘Not enough is being done to reverse a trend which, if not addressed, will result in many more lodges closing and members leaving the Craft. All too often we see lodges holding their standard four meetings a year – and that’s all. Social activities are vital in Freemasonry because they not only provide a means of introducing potential new members to a lodge, but they also prevent young, and new, brethren losing interest between meetings. So it is as much about retention as it is about recruitment.’

adapt to survive

Keith Mitchell runs new masons’ receptions at Freemasons’ Hall and is forthright in his views. ‘Many of us probably believe that Freemasonry is largely populated by men aged sixty to ninety, with a few lively centenarians. However, there are now more than fifty lodges specifically for undergraduates, postgraduates, senior members of a university and their alumni, ranging in age from eighteen upwards,’ he says, pointing to the growing level of interest in Freemasonry shown by enquiries through the UGLE, Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Provincial websites.

‘Should we worry if the average age of a London Freemason is sixty? I believe we should,’ says Keith. ‘We can shrug and ignore our ageing membership, or we can look critically at Freemasonry and ask what we can do to appeal to a broader swathe of society while maintaining our traditions. I believe it’s time to jettison timidity in masonry. London masons have a float in the Lord Mayor’s Parade and wear their regalia. Many Provinces organise open days and there are frequent social events which are open to non-masons across the country.’

Keith accepts that his views might not be popular: ‘I can already hear some senior brethren groaning loudly, but I do think we need to reflect on what changes would help us to maintain a healthy flow of new members and which lodges would be best placed to make those changes. With 1,400 lodges in London alone, there is flexibility for experimentation and trial. I encourage masonic brethren to reflect on the inevitability of decline if we do not adapt, innovate and move with the changing times.’

Published in Initiatives & Clubs

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