Celebrating 300 years
Tuesday, 07 June 2016 01:00

Breath of fresh air

The resident DJ

Whether it’s writing a book, having a go at volleyball or playing music at a local radio station, RMBI care home residents are discovering new skills in later life. Amy Lewin explores the activities on offer

There’s a new DJ at Tudno FM and he’s spinning some old tracks from Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, Ken George played trombone and saxophone in a band. Nowadays, he plays music at Llandudno’s community radio station, just across the road from his home, Queen Elizabeth Court. 

‘Ken’s unbelievable,’ says Gary Carr, Activities Coordinator at the RMBI care home. ‘He’s 87, and so knowledgeable and enthusiastic.’ Gary does some drive-time DJ’ing himself, and one day suggested that the music enthusiast came along to see what they do at the station. And so DJ Ken was born. ‘Older people tend to get stereotyped. Here, we don’t assume that our residents can’t do something – we find out what they can do.’

The media may be awash with gloomy headlines about the problems facing the UK’s ageing population, but an increasing number of over-65s are still in employment, and many learn new skills every day.

‘Everything we do is geared to maximising people’s strengths, in all different areas, while giving residents the opportunity to try new things,’ says Debra Keeling, RMBI Deputy Director of Care Operations. ‘We need to remember that someone living in a care home has a huge amount to offer, and can still keep learning. So as far as possible we just continue with normal life, while developing self-esteem, supporting each other and creating a sense of community.’

Magic memories

Ken’s swing session isn’t his only appointment for the day. After lunch, he will be building with Lego and cardboard boxes, keeping his hands dexterous. More importantly, he will also be swapping stories with a group of fellow residents. 

‘It’s all about reminiscence,’ says Gary. ‘I tend to tap into memories of things people did as a child, or when they were younger.’ It could be a creative activity that sparks conversation, or hearing an old song or taking a day trip. ‘That’s what we do here – we unlock memories.’

One of the most recent donations to Gary’s club, inspired by Age UK’s hugely successful Men in Sheds initiative, was an old Singer sewing machine. And it just so happens that he is a trained sewing machine mechanic, so he stripped it down and fixed it up like new. ‘You should have seen the looks on their faces when I opened the box and showed it to the group,’ he chuckles. ‘They were so excited, because they’d all had one once.’

At Cornwallis Court in Suffolk, the residents also have plenty of tales to share. When 26 uniformed RAF officers visited earlier this year, they found themselves staying well beyond teatime. ‘A lot of the residents fetched their medals from their rooms,’ says the home’s Activities Coordinator Alexander Winter. ‘They swapped stories with the officers for the whole evening.’

It’s not just the people actively taking part who benefit from these sessions. Some residents might have lost the ability to speak, yet sometimes simply being surrounded by other people communicating, laughing and using positive body language can have a huge, positive impact on their sense of wellbeing. 

Leading by example

Later in the week, back in Llandudno, Ken has another activity in the diary. But this time, he will be leading it. ‘Ken loves to help out when I’m not around,’ says Gary. ‘On Saturdays, he runs “Music with Ken George” in the home’s Silver Jubilee Lounge. He’s made a lot of friends here.’ 

Like everything else going on at Queen Elizabeth Court, the music session is advertised in the home’s monthly Court Tales magazine, so residents can pop along if they like the sound of whatever’s going to be playing on the day.

Ken is not the only one sharing his skills and interests. In another home, a lady who had been a florist hosted a flower-arranging club to share her skills with other residents. ‘It boosted her self-esteem immeasurably,’ says Debra. ‘It was really important for her to show other people who she was. And everyone walking around the home commented on how lovely the displays looked.’

Carers and activities leaders work hard to arrange events and to encourage hobbies – whether carried out in a group or as an individual – that are relevant to each person living in their home, based primarily on their personal care plan. 

‘We focus heavily on life history and get to know people really well – right from where residents were born to what subjects they did at school, what jobs they had and what their interests were,’ says Debra. ‘We mould all that information together and develop a plan that’s meaningful to them.’

‘Older people tend to get stereotyped. Here, we don’t assume that our residents can’t do something – we find out what they can do.’ Gary Carr, Activities Coordinator

Lifelong learning

The RMBI’s tailored approach to care helps its residents to maintain their independence, and to tot up plenty of personal achievements along the way. Among the 1,000-plus people living in RMBI homes in England and Wales, there is a 100-year-old playing the occasional game of volleyball, someone over 80 who has learned to play the piano and an autobiographer who has written a book of personal wartime experiences.

Not that it is always possible for all residents to achieve everything that they’d like to. One resident wanted to fly on Concorde which, short of time travel, was beyond the means of the care home. 

So it was decided to look for the next best thing – going on a flight simulator. 

‘We also used to have somebody who really loved horses, but was no longer able to ride,’ remembers Debra. ‘Yet she could still enjoy going to see the horses and stroking them, so we set up trips to a stable. You name it and we’ll try to arrange it, as much as we possibly can.’

Creating a community 

At Cornwallis Court, basket weaving is a favourite activity. ‘It doesn’t always end up involving basket weaving, though,’ says Alexander, explaining that the session sometimes morphs into embroidery and crafting, depending on what the residents fancy. ‘Lots of the residents keep things like toiletries in the baskets they’ve made. Sometimes they make them for those residents who can’t, or they bake a cake for the less mobile, take it round and have a chat.’

Alexander thinks this community spirit is not only part and parcel of the activities programme but also a key feature in all RMBI care homes. ‘It’s a window of opportunity to socialise and make friends in their own time. It reawakens a social environment, which continues when there’s nothing going on. Even when there are no activities coordinators around, they will visit each other’s rooms, or bring some board games to the lounge to play together. That’s what I call a butterfly-effect moment.’

For many residents, living in an RMBI home is a sociable kind of independence. ‘After all,’ says Alexander, ‘everybody here has a degree in life.’

Published in RMBI
Tuesday, 07 June 2016 01:00

Sharing ideas for success

Annual Briefing

Speaking at Great Queen Street on 26 April, masonic leaders explained how Freemasonry can grasp success if members can learn to share ideas and work together

William Shakespeare, John F Kennedy and even Steve Jobs all managed to find their way into the Gallery Suite at Freemasons’ Hall in a typically entertaining afternoon of speeches at the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting.

Before an audience made up of Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents, speakers took their turn at the lectern to review the developments in Freemasonry in 2015 and looked forward to an exciting future for the Craft and Royal Arch.

Understandably, the Tercentenary featured heavily, but there was also much to discuss about the recommendations of the Membership Focus Group (MFG) on how best to attract, recruit and retain members at a time when membership has shown a decline. The overall message was overwhelmingly positive, with several new initiatives announced.

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes kicked things off by reporting that a four-part television series on Freemasonry is under way. This will be broadcast to coincide with the Tercentenary celebrations and will include the Pro Grand Master’s fly-fishing technique at the Hampshire and Isle of Wight fishing day.

The Pro Grand Master then reported that commemorative paving stones containing the names of Freemasons who received a Victoria Cross (VC) 

in World War I would be installed at the front of the Peace Memorial, adding that ‘there are 60 such VCs to be commemorated’. He also encouraged brethren to wear a special commemorative tie and jewel for the celebratory period, and announced that a major charitable gift of £3 million would be distributed by the Masonic Charitable Foundation in the form of 300 grants, allocated according to the outcome of votes cast both by masons and the general public.

The Pro Grand Master felt that the celebration of Grand Lodge’s 300th year is a great opportunity for publicity. ‘The Tercentenary gives us all a chance to reflect on the place of Freemasonry today and the role of our lodge and our brethren,’ he said. ‘This is an opportunity not to be missed and it is up to us to ensure that Freemasonry benefits.’

Facts and figures

Next up was Anthony Wilson, President of the Board of General Purposes (BGP), to discuss the 2015 financial accounts and recent BGP initiatives. He revealed a strong yearly surplus generated from investment income, which has supported capital expenditure and the ongoing maintenance required to deal with Regent Street disease (corrosion) at Freemasons’ Hall. Anthony emphasised the importance of the building for filming and events while also being mindful of its core purpose. 

The cost of the Tercentenary celebrations were included in the 2016 forecast for the first time, but ‘there would be no call upon members for funds’, as this would be supported by events and reserves. Anthony asked brethren to spread the word about the benefits of the Masonic Insurance Mutual, and, most importantly of all, noted that Freemasonry Today costs less than £1 per member, per issue.

Second Grand Principal Russell Race discussed the ‘encouraging straws in the wind for membership of the Royal Arch’ before Sir David Wootton gave some thoughts on governance – ‘who does what with what authority’ – based on findings from the MFG.

‘If we can bottle the masonic sizzle from the best lodges and spread it around the rest, we can start to address all the issues.’ Michael Ward

Taking up the theme in more detail, Third Grand Principal Gareth Jones explained how ‘we need to build on the work that has been started, moving from securing evidence to emphasising delivery and implementation’. Gareth also talked about the importance of communication and spreading best practice from the Provinces and Districts.

Sir David then announced a proposal to take forward the work of the MFG: this would be a new body of a dozen members who would represent all ‘the talents, geographies and constituent parts of the Craft and Royal Arch’. The hope was to get this up and running by the end of 2017 to ‘develop and embed systems, ensuring that the necessary steps will be taken to continue and enhance Freemasonry’.

Looking after initiates

John Roscoe, an industrial psychologist, then presented the MFG’s findings on the negative effect of un-masonic conduct in lodges. John cited ‘the greatest cause for early dissatisfaction with initiates’ as being a perception of senior members dominating the lodge. He read out a number of testimonies in which masons recounted incidents of brethren being overzealous or overbearing.

John then asked those present to think of three ways to deal with behaviour that is not in keeping with the spirit of Freemasonry. Each table put their heads together to engage with this issue, and there was much debate as solutions were considered.

After a coffee break, PGM for Warwickshire David Macey led a commendation of ADelphi 2, showing some of the possibilities of the new membership database. ‘It’s now working well and is generally very stable. We are continuing to improve performance and security,’ he said. David gave a demonstration 

of its promising new dashboard system. ‘The MFG gave us a very clear list of what PGMs and Grand Superintendents need,’ he said, showing how a simple dashboard will allow users to find a summary of every lodge in their Province, showing the 10 best and worst performing lodges, comparisons of members’ ages and contact information.

Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master Michael Ward then gave a careful analysis of the findings of an MFG survey that explored why so many initiates drop out soon after joining and what could be done to counteract this. It was vital, he said, to capitalise on work already done in the Provinces on these issues rather than try to ‘reinvent the wheel’.

Michael discussed what could be done to help lodges that were struggling to attract new members and finished by exhorting that, ‘success is within our grasp. If we can bottle the masonic sizzle from the best lodges and spread it around the rest, we can start to address all the issues. It’s in our hands.’

PGM for East Kent Geoffrey Dearing spoke about the importance of data protection and compliance before Malcolm Aish, President of the Committee of General Purposes, presented the annual report and statistics for the Royal Arch. Malcolm noted the enthusiasm for charitable contributions and also thanked brethren for completing the survey. 

Chairman of the MFG and Deputy President of the BGP Ray Reed then gave highlights from the Craft annual report, showing that new initiates were rising and resignations declining, with the annual membership loss down to 1.65 per cent. Lodges reported an 83 per cent reduction in resignations, while 69 per cent reported increasing initiate figures. Ray singled out areas for improvement, including a willingness to engage with ‘local press, business, civic and religious leaders’ and the importance of attracting and mentoring quality initiates. 

Emphasising the need for Provinces to share ideas, Ray concluded by thanking brethren for their ‘support, energy, creativity, hard work and, most importantly, belief in helping make things happen’. 

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 07 June 2016 01:00

Fraternity in the trenches

Service and sacrifice

The Battle of the Somme produced more than one million casualties. Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry Diane Clements marks the masons who fought for freedom

The centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 will be marked this summer. On that single day there were almost 60,000 British casualties, most of them before noon, of whom nearly 20,000 died. 

As the regular army had been largely destroyed by the end of 1914, the soldiers who fought on the Somme were Kitchener’s volunteer army, the best the nation had to offer, but inexperienced in battle. A few months earlier most had been working in factories, offices and fields and many had joined up with friends from their local areas. 

The offensive on the Somme was launched to support the French army and was intended to draw German manpower away from Verdun. This meant that British troops were moved south from Flanders to north-east France. 

Initially, the move was regarded as positive by the soldiers, as switching from clay to chalk soil meant they had a better chance of keeping dry. The British advance was preceded by seven days of artillery bombardment, which proved ineffective in damaging the barbed-wire barrier erected by German troops. 

By the time of the battle, the method of centrally recording masonic losses had been established. Lodge secretaries were asked to record on special Grand Lodge forms the names of brethren known to have died. These were used to compile a Roll of Honour with name, military rank and masonic rank published each year in the Masonic Year Book. Modern research, checking these names against military records, has identified at least 25 masonic casualties during the period of the battle. 

Manchester businessman Charles Campbell May was one of several Freemasons who died on the first day. Born in New Zealand, he had served six years with King Edward’s Horse (The King’s Overseas Dominions Regiment) before 1914 and then founded a volunteer unit at the outbreak of war. Charles was a member of King’s Colonials Lodge, No. 3386.

‘Coolest and bravest’

The Somme drew on the resources of the whole British Empire, and among the casualties was Eric Ayre, from Newfoundland, who was a member of Whiteway Lodge, No. 3541. His brother Bernard and cousin Wilfred were also killed. The head of a wooden gavel, now in the Library and Museum collection, was made from an abandoned German rifle by New Zealand troops, who claimed to have used it at masonic meetings on the Western Front. 

Roby Myddleton Gotch had just qualified as a solicitor when war broke out. He had joined Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, while at the University of Oxford in 1910 and later joined Nottinghamshire Lodge, No. 1434. Described as ‘one of the coolest and bravest of officers’, Roby was killed as he helped to lay a telephone wire close to some German barbed wire. 

Around 750 former pupils of the Royal Masonic School for Boys served in the war. Of these, 106 were killed, as well as six masters. In 1922, Memorials of Masonians Who Fell in the Great War was published with biographical details of each casualty. Among them was George Sutton Taylor, a fish merchant who had enlisted with the 10th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, the ‘Grimsby Chums’, in 1914. He always declined any promotion so that he could stay with the friends he had joined up with. 

‘He always declined any promotion so that he could stay with the friends he had joined up with.’

Remembering the fallen

Another Old Masonian casualty of the Somme was Cyril Young from London, a 20-year-old clerk with the Metropolitan Asylums Board. His platoon was among the first into battle on the first day. The Company Sergeant-Major wrote to Cyril’s mother soon after leaving for France in July 1915: ‘I did my utmost to dissuade him from volunteering so soon because of his youth, and he seemed such a nice chap that it made me think he probably left aching hearts behind him. Still, he was so keen on doing his little bit, as we all are, that I could not refuse him.’

Possessed of a fine swerve and a great turn of speed, Thomas Kemp had played for Manchester Rugby Union Club and Leigh Cricket Club as an amateur while pursuing a career in accountancy. When the war broke out he was working in Chile but travelled home to volunteer in the Manchester Regiment. The secretary of his lodge, Marquis of Lorne Lodge, No. 1354, was among those who sent condolences to his parents. 

In a later phase of the battle, Eugene Paul Bennett, a lieutenant in the Worcestershire Regiment, led an attack on the German trenches despite being wounded and when most of the other officers had been killed. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for saving his battalion and capturing the enemy line. On his return, Eugene became a Freemason, joining the Lodge of Felicity, No. 58, in London in 1922. 

In July 1932 the Thiepval Memorial was unveiled by the Prince of Wales. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, its arch represents the alliance of Britain and France in the offensive. The village of Thiepval had been one of the objectives of the first day of the battle, having been held by the German army since September 1914. It was finally captured by the British at the end of September 1916 and will be the focus of the centenary commemoration.

Published in Features
Tuesday, 07 June 2016 01:00

Community support on the streets

At the vanguard

When Ezra McGowan started handing out crisis packs to the homeless from a burger van, he knew he had found his calling. Imogen Beecroft discovers how it complements his Freemasonry

At 10pm on a cold February evening, a biting wind is rattling the windows of Ezra McGowan’s house. But while most of us would keep warm inside on a night like this, Ezra zips up his fleece and heads out to work. 

By day, Ezra runs a waste disposal company, but he spends his free time handing out food and other necessities to homeless people in London, Peterborough and Manchester. 

Ezra, who is a member of Hand and Heart Lodge, No. 4109, started The Forget Me Not Trust two years ago with his brother Nathan because, ‘We were seeing homeless people everywhere we went in these major cities. We realised this was an epidemic problem, so we thought we should try to do something about it. We’ve been blessed in our own way with business, so we’re in a fortunate position and wanted to give something back.’

The brothers acquired an old burger van, pitched up in Manchester city centre, and started giving out food and hot drinks to the local homeless population. Ezra and Nathan are both self-employed, which gives them a certain degree of flexibility with their working hours. However, Ezra explains, ‘If we finish work at 3pm, then we’ll go out for a few hours, but usually we like to go out late in the evening. Those are the hours when we’re really needed.’

Ezra is modest about what they can provide. ‘It’s not à la carte. We try to serve food that we can make go a long way – soup, coffee, tea, biscuits, sandwiches. If we can, we serve hot food, but it’s really about how far we can make it go.’ A meal or hot drink isn’t the only necessity on the menu, however. To those in particularly desperate circumstances, the brothers also provide vital crisis packs, which contain hats, gloves, socks, toothpaste, a toothbrush, toilet paper and sanitary products for women. 

‘We’ve been blessed in business, so we’re in a fortunate position and wanted to give something back.’ Ezra McGowan

Nowhere to turn

The Forget Me Not Trust mainly operates in Manchester, where Ezra lives, and Peterborough, where he owns property, but the brothers also travel down to London for weekends when they’ve raised enough money to do so. 

In London the van pitches up at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, just a stone’s throw from Freemasons’ Hall. 

Revisiting the same areas means Ezra has a few regulars who he gets to know over time, and he’s even met some people who have masonic connections in their families. 

He stresses that the homeless people he meets come from all walks of life. ‘Some people have been very successful businessmen and have just fallen on hard times. Maybe they’ve missed mortgage payments and things have got on top of them so they’ve been reduced to homelessness. It could be anyone. It could happen to each and every one of us.’

Just last month Ezra met a boy from Ireland who was living on the streets of Manchester with his dog. When Ezra spoke to him, the boy explained that he’d had an argument with his parents and, with no money and nowhere to turn, ended up homeless. 

‘We gave him some hot food and a crisis pack, but he had no one to turn to. I’m not an angel; I fell out with my parents as a child, but we always had family members I could have turned to,’ explains Ezra. ‘Some of the people we work with have no family at all. Others might have mental health problems, which makes it so much harder to get help.’ 

Luckily, he says, some people do get rehoused, but all too often these stories don’t have happy endings. ‘A few months ago a man was killed. He was beaten up by some youths because he was homeless and they burned him to death. The people we try to help are often neglected, abused and forgotten. That’s how we chose the name for the charity: we wanted to show them that they haven’t been forgotten by everyone.’

Ezra finds it particularly difficult when he encounters young women living on the street. ‘While the homeless population is mainly male, there are usually about three or four women for every 25 men coming to us for help. Women on the street are in a very vulnerable position and it’s heartbreaking to see. I have daughters myself and I’d like to think that if anything like this ever happened to them, there would be someone looking out for them.’

Ezra sees his work with the homeless as his calling, explaining: ‘Some people are blessed to be doctors or psychiatrists. My brother and I haven’t been able to do that, but we’ve always been hard workers and can help people by offering them food and support. We’re everyday lads, not multimillionaires, but this is what we were meant to do. It’s very satisfying and is a breath of fresh air.’

While helping people in this way is undoubtedly rewarding, it isn’t an easy ride. He says: ‘We do get some abuse, particularly on a Friday or Saturday night, when it’s busy in town. Some people call us “do-gooders” and “churchgoers” or swear at us. It’s not all rosy on the street.’

Despite these challenges, Ezra estimates that they can help 60-70 people every night. However, providing everyday essentials, food and drinks to this many people is a costly business, and he can only do so much of it on his own. 

Initially, Ezra and Nathan funded the project themselves, buying supplies in bulk from wholesalers. When it started to grow in scale and ambition, however, Ezra turned to his lodge for extra support. 

Tony Harrison, the Provincial Grand Master for West Lancashire, emphasises that the ideals behind The Forget Me Not Trust coincide wholly with those of Freemasonry. ‘Ezra told me of the work they do to support these individuals in need by providing warm food and clothing. This is a wonderful example of members of our fraternity working in the community to support others less fortunate than themselves.’

‘We’re everyday lads, not multimillionaires, but this is what we were meant to do.’ Ezra McGowan

Spreading the word

Since reaching out to other Freemasons, the response has been excellent. ‘The feedback we’re getting from brethren has been fantastic,’ says Ezra. ‘Hand on Heart Lodge has been wonderful – the brethren have given donations and arranged a raffle to raise money for The Forget Me Not Trust. I don’t think anything like this has really been heard of in Freemasonry before and now other lodges have started donating, which is great.’

In return, Ezra proudly displays the square and compasses wherever he can. He explains that he’d been a mason for 15 years when he had an accident and was offered help through the fraternity. ‘It was a wonderful, unexpected thing to have people knocking on your door offering to help you. I thought it would be nice to give something back, so now we try to promote Freemasonry in the community.’

Ezra is hoping to increase his fellow masons’ involvement with the charity, and has big plans for the future. ‘We’ve started small, but once we’ve got everything running perfectly in Manchester we’d like to branch out to other major cities. It’s our ambition to reach a point where we can advise other Provinces how best to run these events. Ultimately, we’d like to have one event a week run by Freemasons in every major city in the UK.’

Ezra enjoys engaging people in lively discussions about Freemasonry and challenging their existing preconceptions about the fraternity. ‘Lots of members of the public come over and talk to us when they see the badge displayed. Sometimes they might have a negative impression of Freemasonry, but we’re finding that we can open their eyes and change their perspective. Often we have people saying, “Oh, that’s fantastic – I never knew that about Freemasonry.” ’

Find out more about the charity’s work and how to lend your support at www.theforgetmenottrust.org.uk 

From the Past Grand Secretary

By the time you receive this issue of the magazine, the Grand Master will have announced my retirement as Grand Secretary. It has been an enormous privilege to serve the membership since 2007. I am particularly proud of the success of Freemasonry Today, especially as it is well-liked by the members and, importantly, also read by families.

I would like to thank all those many people for their invaluable advice, support and friendship during my tenure and I wish you all well at this very exciting time in Freemasonry.

In this issue of the magazine, we find out how the celebrations of UGLE’s 300th year are as much about the activities happening in your local area as they are about nationwide events. From plays and concerts through to special meetings and conferences, what is being planned throughout the Provinces, Districts and the Metropolitan area will define how we remember the Tercentenary celebrations in years to come.

Community spirit will be crucial in making the Tercentenary a success and it is evident in much of the work we do. Our piece on the Get On Track programme shows how young people in Wales are being inspired to make important life decisions thanks to a combination of masonic funding and mentoring by professional athletes. With some 848,000 16-24-year-olds in England and Wales currently not in education, employment or training, the initiative is helping them to build new confidence and skills.

It’s not just the younger generation who need inspiration. Our masonic care homes are also encouraging people in later life to learn new skills. We find out about the resident who enjoys a game of volleyball, the 80-year-old learning to play the piano and a music enthusiast who’s turned his hand to DJ’ing for a local radio station. Like the Get On Track programme, the care home scheme is helping to develop self-esteem and create a sense of community.

Freemasons are giving support to so many different individuals and groups. We meet Ezra McGowan in Manchester who gives out crisis packs to the homeless from an old burger van. It’s a heartwarming story about a member of the fraternity helping those in a vulnerable section of society who often have nowhere to turn. If Ezra has his way, the Manchester burger van is just the beginning of a Provincial support network that will help the homeless in any city where there is a need.

By working together, we can look forward to a brighter future not just for Freemasonry but for all the communities that need our help.

Nigel Brown
Past Grand Secretary

‘By working together, we can look forward to a brighter future for Freemasonry and all the communities that need our help.’

Published in UGLE

A beacon for us all

James Newman, Deputy President and Chairman of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, explores the evolution of the charity

Our new charity has been established following a long and very thorough review of how the four central masonic charities operated, how they could work together in the future and how best they can collectively serve the masonic community in particular. The Bagnall Report in 1973 made quite a number of recommendations, some of which were implemented, but many others were not, as they were not felt appropriate at that time.

In those intervening 43 years, some attempts were made to further integrate masonic charitable support but with little success. More importantly, The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund have been successfully established, with Freemasonry and society both changing beyond recognition, so another major review was long overdue.

So why has this review succeeded in getting over the finishing line? As with all things, especially in Freemasonry, it’s all about people and their willingness to compromise and work for a better solution.

We worked together for a good number of years on the review, had some robust discussions along the way, but always came back to the overriding objective – how do we create the best, most long-term and most efficient solution to provide charitable support and protect our fundraising activities?

Whilst the presidents have set the policies, persuaded and sometimes had to cajole their trustees to support the review’s recommendations, we owe a big debt to our four chief executives and their respective staff teams for the professional manner in which they have approached this review, and indeed, are now implementing it.

Change can often be difficult, but our staff have been magnificent throughout and no matter what uncertainty they face for their own futures, they have ensured that the standard of service you all have come to expect has been maintained at a consistently high level. 

The rationale for what we have done is to make best use of the money you all so generously donate and to have a structured and flexible system of support carried out in the most efficient way. To do this, we will over time create a single charitable fund with as few restrictions as possible on how we spend it, which will allow us to react to the specific demand or need for support at any point in time from both masonic and non-masonic communities. Of course, the existing funds of each charity will continue to be spent for the purposes for which they have been raised.

A trustee board has already been formed and has representatives from each of the four current charities and an excellent mix of skills. We have set up a number of committees, which are already hard at work advising on new integrated policies, assisting the executive team and making recommendations to the trustees.

So how will all of you and the Craft be represented and able to get your views across to the trustees and executive team? Membership of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) will consist of the trustees as well as two appointees from Metropolitan Grand Lodge and two from each Province. These nominees will be approved at each Metropolitan or Provincial meeting so that you will all know who they are and can, therefore, ask them to represent your views. There will be at least two members’ meetings each year, one of which will be outside London.

We are about to create a very large and, we hope, nationally recognised charity, which will become a beacon for us all. The funds at our disposal have been built up by our predecessors over two and a quarter centuries, and we owe it to them and our current donors and beneficiaries to make it a success.

‘How do we create the best, long-term and most efficient solution to provide charitable support and protect our fundraising activities?’

Best behaviour

The MFG is investigating why initiates can feel they are coming under too much pressure from senior lodge members

Wherever people come together as a group or society, differences of personal expectation, importance and influence will from time to time introduce tensions and potential for disharmony.

Evidence of tensions occurring in Freemasonry is apparent in the results of the Membership Focus Group (MFG) member surveys. These tensions are acknowledged by Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents to be a significant factor in the retention of members, as well as in the ongoing viability of a lodge or chapter.

With the first survey revealing a particular need to support initiates, the MFG is developing a follow-on study of all new masons to track them through their early journey in Freemasonry. The study will identify what expectations men have before joining, how these change or are satisfied and how the movement could respond more sensitively to those expectations.

Survey comments, as well as the results of exit interviews conducted by Provincial Grand Lodges and the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, highlight that behaviour that was perceived to be running counter to the spirit of Freemasonry often led to a breakdown in relationships and men resigning from the Craft. The disappointment with this un-masonic behaviour is illustrated by these quotes from the second MFG survey:

· ‘Younger masons are frightened off by well-meaning but overbearing senior masons.’

· ‘The problem of the lodge bully can be tricky to handle as over-dominant members usually hold important offices within the lodge and perform a disproportionately large amount of the work in and around it, but as we all know, it only takes one bad apple to turn the entire barrel sour.’ 

· ‘I now intend to resign. This is due to the in-fighting, hypocrisy and dominant behaviour of senior masons, who just do not behave in a masonic way.’

While the successful lodge needs to be well led by experienced, often senior masons, sometimes one or two individuals emerge who tend to dictate how a lodge is run. Their underlying intentions are often positive in that they see themselves as upholding the traditions of Freemasonry; however, their enthusiasm may be experienced rather more negatively as dictatorial or controlling of others. 

Valuing the individual

The result can be that overzealous demands are placed upon junior members toward performing ritual, achieving perfection, time commitment or progression toward the Master’s Chair. The problem is one of focus, with more being placed on the needs of the lodge rather than those of the member. 

Perhaps the very values we espouse are an additional factor – our harmony and brotherly love may lead us not to confront behaviour that seems un-masonic. Many of us dislike confrontation and this too may mean that rather than address difficult issues, we let them pass. The unfortunate result is the victim ceases to attend or is allowed to quietly resign. 

At the Pro Grand Master’s recent meeting with Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters, the topic was the subject of some discussion and those attending suggested a number of actions that might usefully be considered. 

Suggestions included the need to recognise such behaviour early and finding ways of supporting individuals, perhaps through the mentoring process and promoting the spirit of mutual respect using the existing training and development programmes. 

It is important to stress two facts. First, that this behaviour is not widespread but does have a disproportionately big impact. Second, that Freemasonry is just like any other organisation; this behaviour is not peculiar to us and indeed may be less prevalent in Freemasonry, but our values may make it more visible to our members. The MFG is developing thoughts and guidelines for Provinces and lodges to consider in order to address this subject. The view from members may very well be that this is a topic for discussion in lodge.

Published in Membership Focus Group

Public display

Civil rights advocate and art collector John Bowes seemed destined for masonic greatness. Philippa Faulks discovers the Provincial Grand Master who never was

John Bowes is best known for the magnificent Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, County Durham. Created with his wife Joséphine as a legacy for future generations, it now houses some of Britain’s most treasured artworks and has been compared to the Wallace Collection in London.

Born on 19 June 1811 in London, Bowes was the illegitimate son of John Bowes-Lyon, the 10th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. The Earl had engaged in a long affair with Mary Milner, a commoner, only marrying her 16 hours before his death in 1820, when his son was nine years old. The marriage did not prevent Bowes-Lyon’s brother Thomas claiming the title of 11th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. 

Young Bowes’ legitimacy was questioned and the courts agreed that he would inherit the English estates – including the Gibside estate and Streatlam Castle – and that his uncle would come into the Scottish estates and earldom. Bowes was brought up by his mother at Gibside and later gained a BA at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1832. 

Bowes had a keen interest in theatre and art, notably due to his friendship with novelist and satirical cartoonist William Makepeace Thackeray. He ventured to Paris in 1832 and returned many times, having a financial interest in the Théâtre des Variétés. It was also where he met his future wife.

Back in Britain, Bowes was responsible for the Strathmore English estates, but his other main passion was horse racing. He owned Streatlam Stud and his finest triumph came with the horse West Australian, who won the 2,000 Guineas, the Derby and the St Leger Stakes in 1854, a feat later dubbed as winning ‘the Triple Crown’.

Politician and philanthropist

Bowes was the Liberal Party MP for South Durham between 1832 and 1847 and a political reformer. He was an advocate for civil rights, religious freedom of expression and the abolition of colonial slavery – all qualities that would complement his masonic career. Of all the biographies available, however, little or no mention is made of his curious appointment as Provincial Grand Master of Durham in 1845. 

According to masonic records, Bowes was initiated into Scientific Lodge, No. 131 (now No. 88), on 19 May 1831, while at Cambridge. Duly passed and raised, he then joined the now erased Union Lodge of Barnard Castle, No. 667, in 1842. He became a member of what is now Palatine Lodge, No. 97 (formerly Sea Captains’ Lodge, No. 218), in 1845 and joined the London-based Lodge of Friendship, No. 6, the following year.

According to a paper by CE Hardy entitled ‘John Bowes, The PGM who was never installed’, in the early part of 1845 Bowes was PGM-designate for the province of Durham. However, how, when or by whom he was recommended is still a mystery. 

In October 1845 it was announced by Sir Cuthbert Sharp DPGM, at a meeting of Lodge of Industry, No. 56 (now No. 48), ‘that his [Bowes’] installation would take place at as early a date as could be arranged’. The announcement was received with ‘great satisfaction by the brethren present’ and ‘a general revival of Freemasonry in the Province’ was expected to result.

Bowes, however, was never installed and resigned from the appointment in 1847. A copy of a letter from the Grand Master, Thomas Dundas, 2nd Earl of Zetland, to Bowes states that: ‘Although I sincerely regret to lose your cooperation as a mason, yet I admit that under the circumstances you are perfectly right in resigning the office of Prov GM of Durham.’ 

So, what was the reason behind ‘the PGM who never was’? Hardy’s research suggests a catalogue of unfortunate circumstances and miscommunications.

Around this time, Bowes was travelling back and forth to France, partly for business but more likely affairs of the heart; he was enamoured with the actress Joséphine Benoîte Coffin-Chevalier, an avid art collector. It was this liaison that would later lead to the creation of the County Durham museum. 

Bowes was in the swansong years of his political career, leaving him free to pursue his philanthropy. It is probable that the delays caused by his absences, and the sudden illness of his supporter Sir Cuthbert Sharp, caused Bowes to decide that he could not fulfil the expectations of him as PGM.

Bowes’ masonic career did not stall completely with these events, however. He became a founder member of Barnard Lodge, No. 1230, in 1868, and contributed £100 towards building the masonic hall.

‘He was an advocate for civil rights, religious freedom of expression and the abolition of colonial slavery.’

Lasting legacy

Bowes and Joséphine married in 1852 and oversaw work on the museum, although neither lived to see its completion. Joséphine laid the foundation stone in 1869, despite being gravely ill, and died in 1874; Bowes died on 9 October 1885. He would have been heartened to know that the 1892 opening was ‘attended by local lodges in full masonic regalia’.  

In April 2009 the museum added another masonic connection. During restorations, a local stonemason found an old beer bottle with a note inside: 

‘I wonder if this flue will ever be reopened? If it should be, and this bottle should still survive, the finder may be interested to find this brief record… 

I, the writer, am the second curator of the museum, and have held the appointment for nearly 22 years. I am 54 years of age – a Churchman and Conservative, and a Past Master of the Barnard Lodge of Freemasons, No. 1230.’ 

Signed in 1906 by one Owen Stanley Scott, it is a fitting reminder of a legacy built on Freemasonry.

With grateful thanks to Adam Lamb, Provincial Museum and Library, Sunderland; Martin Cherry, Library and Museum of Freemasonry, London; and John Acaster

Published in Features

When history is written

Director of Special Projects John Hamill defends the accuracy of the documentation detailing Grand Lodge’s formation

 Were it possible to travel back and forth in time, it would be fascinating to bring back some of those fewer than 100 brethren who came together at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in London on 24 June 1717 to elect the first Grand Master and bring into being the first Grand Lodge in the world. 

The brethren can have had no conception of what they were starting and would be amazed that they were responsible for what has become a worldwide brotherhood, now existing in places that to them were unexplored spaces on the maps of their time.

Masonic historians lament the fact that there is so little documentary evidence for the period, forgetting that those who brought about the formation of Grand Lodge were not aware that they were taking such a momentous step. They did not keep records of their actions until the first minute book of Grand Lodge was begun in 1723. Indeed, had it not been for James Anderson producing his historical information to be incorporated into the 1723 and 1738 editions of the Book of Constitutions, we still might not have known what happened in 1717.

That lack of additional documentation in support of Anderson’s facts has caused some academics to question their veracity. My answer would be to repeat the mantra with which my history tutor began each of our tutorials in my first term as a student: you cannot look at the past with the eyes of the present, you can only look at it in the context of the period.

The four lodges that came together in 1717 became just another group among many other societies and clubs of the time. As no one of social consequence of the day appears to have been involved, it is not surprising that the event was not recorded in the primitive press that existed in the 18th century. 

What seems to have been forgotten is that when Anderson wrote his histories there were still many around who would have attended or have known some of those who were present at the Goose and Gridiron in June 1717. 

Not only that, Anderson’s writing was approved by a Committee of the Grand Lodge and I have no doubt that had he recorded recent facts wrongly it would have been forcefully pointed out to him and that they would have been corrected before the Book of Constitutions went into print.

Celebrate the past

To cast doubts on Anderson’s statements regarding 1717 because the rest of his early history contains undoubted errors of fact is to ignore how the current definition of what constitutes history has changed. 

In Anderson’s day, rather than being a collection of carefully documented and verifiable facts, history was an amalgam of fact, folklore, biblical stories and mythology. 

It was not until after the profound effect that Darwin’s On the Origin of Species had on Western intellectual life that historians began to apply the rigorous rules of scientific research to their studies.

Anderson does attempt to trace masonry back to Adam in the Garden of Eden and includes many biblical, legendary and historical figures as at least promoters of masonry if not actual Grand Masters. However, to cast doubt on events that Anderson records as taking place within the lifetime of his readers because of this ‘history’ is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Whatever academics might try to prove, I believe James Anderson. He had no reason to invent the meeting on 24 June 1717 and we have every reason to continue to celebrate it. More importantly, we should commemorate what has been built since that simple meeting elected a Grand Master to preside over an annual feast.

‘To cast doubts on Anderson’s statements regarding 1717 because the rest of his early history contains errors of fact is to ignore how the current definition of what constitutes history has changed.’

Published in Features

Travelling together

Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes explains how strong leadership combined with a responsible approach will help to build a successful future for the Royal Arch

I congratulate all the Grand Officers whom I have invested on behalf of the Most Excellent the First Grand Principal. At the same time I would remind you that with your new ranks come new obligations. 

Appointments and promotions are therefore not just a reward but an encouragement for further participation in the success of the Order, whether providing support for members of your chapters or giving encouragement to those in the vital role of Royal Arch representatives in your Craft lodges. If, indeed, you are not that representative yourself.

It has been a great pleasure to invest Most Excellent Companion Gareth Jones as Third Grand Principal in succession to Most Excellent Companion David Williamson, who was himself appointed in 2010. We owe Companion Williamson an enormous debt of gratitude for his many contributions, both in our Order and in many others as well. This succession, coupled with that of Most Excellent Companion Russell Race in November last year, continues the strong leadership that the Royal Arch has enjoyed for many years and ensures an exciting future for the Order.

I believe that the Royal Arch is in its strongest position for many years. The profile of the Order was greatly enhanced by the outstanding success of the bicentenary celebrations in 2013, coupled with several key initiatives during and since that time, including the Royal Arch participation in the Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research.

As a reminder, there are two Royal Arch fellows in every five fellowships supported. This is thanks to the incredible generosity of our members and the skilful management of our assets.

I take great pride in the work of the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team and want to thank the retiring Grand Scribe Ezra for his work over the past nine years. We have travelled a lot together, although we have not always returned without mishap. But be it Icelandic volcanic ash, Barbadian hurricanes or Heathrow snow, we have made it in the end, one way or another. 

‘Appointments and promotions are not just a reward but an encouragement for participation in the success of the Order.’

Published in SGC
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