Celebrating 300 years

Freemasons in the beautiful Georgian town of Blandford Forum in Dorset have been celebrating the Tercentenary in a unique way

Local Freemasons have been closely collaborating with the local museum, publicly celebrating the role of Freemasons in their community over the past 250 years.

The Provincial Grand Master for Dorset, Richard Merritt, encouraged Dorset Freemasons to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry in England by engaging with their local communities. Blandford Freemasons leapt to the task with enthusiasm. 

At an initial meeting with the Blandford Town Museum it became clear to all present that local Freemasons had a wealth of information about centuries of Blandford residents. The Museum soon realised that while there was a long list of well-known men of Blandford whose deeds were known, their membership of Freemasonry was not.

In a terrific exercise in collaboration between Blandford Freemasons and the museum, they identified 917 Freemasons with a Blandford connection from 1771 to date. These included farmers, shopkeepers, doctors, school teachers, Mayors and servicemen, the respected tradesmen of their town and ancestors of today’s Blandford residents.  

This meticulous research was put on display at an open day at Blandford Masonic Hall to coincide with the town’s Georgian Fayre. During the Fayre, the town was closed to traffic, but the streets were full of visitors, hundreds of whom visited the Masonic Hall. The hall was decked with displays with a modern twist; looped audio visual displays sharing the space with posters, information boards, historic artefacts and other displays sharing a wealth of information

All the visitors gained an understanding of how closely the history of the town and the history of Blandford Freemasonry have been linked for 250 years. Visitors saw their ancestors stretching back beyond living memory and their connection with the town across the centuries.

A packed house descended on Freemasons’ Hall yesterday, as the Library and Museum of Freemasonry opened its doors for a Private View of ‘Rough to Smooth’ – an exhibition of contemporary artwork inspired by Freemasonry

Visitors were treated to an exhibition of new artworks celebrating Freemasonry and its continued role and relevance in society today. In attendance was Peter Lowndes, Pro Grand Master, Anthony Wilson, President of the Board of General Purposes, and Jacques Viljoen, the United Grand Lodge of England's very first Artist in Residence, who created the exhibition along with nine guest artists.

The ‘Rough to Smooth’ art exhibition will open to the public during this Saturday’s Open Day, which marks the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Premier Grand Lodge. It will be a day of exhibitions, music and architecture and the chance for visitors to view the new collection of art - many of which are for sale.

Anthony Wilson commented: 'What has struck me, above all else, is the amount of thought and work that has gone into each picture. The artists have demonstrated both an understanding of, and the variety of responses to Freemasonry, its values and, in particular, our splendid building.'

The exhibition continues next week from Monday June 26th until Saturday July 1st. Admission is free and Freemasons’ Hall will be open from 10am to 5pm, with last entry at 4:30pm.

Published in UGLE

Rodney Bass, former Essex County Councillor and the current Provincial Grand Master for Essex Freemasons, has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in recognition of his service to Local Government in Essex.

Coincidentally, Mr Bass, who was a member of Maldon District Council for 40 years between 1967 and 2007 and an Essex County Councillor from 1997, first heard about the award in May this year, on his last working day for the local authority.

“I am really delighted and very honoured to have been made an OBE,” said Mr Bass, aged 71 and married to wife Margaret. “It is wonderful for me personally, but I also see it as recognition for all my former colleagues in Local Government who have supported me over the last 50 years and I thank them for all their help.”

“I hope to continue serving the local community through Freemasonry in Essex and the charitable giving associated with our Fraternity and will also continue membership of my local Parish Council.”

A graduate in economics and accountancy, Mr Bass spent 35 years working in the banking industry becoming a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers in 1980. He used this specialist knowledge in his Local Government career dealing with finance, constitutional law and more recently highways and transportation.

During his long period of service he was made Chairman of Maldon District Council and became Chairman of Essex County Council for two years and from 2010 to 2012 was Chairman of Essex County Council. He was recently elected an honorary Alderman of Essex.

Grand announcement by Freemasons of Yorkshire, West Riding

An explosion of sound and a cascade of glitter to the background of Purcell’s music and a montage featuring activities during the festival culminated in the amazing total being dramatically revealed at an impressive banquet at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

Some 600 brethren, their wives and partners, shared in the celebrations and delight as the outstanding result, kept under wraps until the night, was greeted with acclaim and great satisfaction by all present.

RW Provincial Grand Master David Pratt was, for once, lost for words. The £3,300,300 raised was fitting recognition to mark the 300th anniversary of the formation of the first ever Grand Lodge.

RW Bro Pratt paid tribute to all the members of the Province and their families for their contributions and support throughout the festival. He also reflected on the work of RW Bro John Clayton, his predecessor, who had launched the festival as its President in 2012, with a clear vision of how it should be managed through to a successful outcome.

VW Bro Sir Paul Williams, Chairman of the RMBI Care Company, thanked the Province for the manner in which it had supported the Festival. He commented that Yorkshire, West Riding had not only done themselves proud but also done it in style, with passion, commitment and a lot of fun along the way.

Sir David Wootton, Assistant Grand Master, in proposing a toast to the Festival President thanked everyone in the Province for their tremendous support, which had resulted in such an outstanding achievement. He is proud to be a member of the Province.

 

Wednesday, 08 March 2017 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Spring 2017

From the Grand Secretary

By the time you receive this issue, our Tercentenary year will be well under way and our Rulers will have already attended overseas events in Denmark, Mumbai, India, and Zakynthos, Greece, at our unattached Star of the East Lodge, No. 880. His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent has also attended a church service at Canterbury Cathedral for the Provinces of East and West Kent, Sussex and Surrey. We now await the broadcast in April of the long-anticipated Sky TV documentary Inside The Freemasons.

It is an exciting year as we build towards our showpiece event at the end of October. So far, it is likely that we will welcome around 160 Grand Lodges from around the world to celebrate with us at the Royal Albert Hall and look forward to our next 300 years. We now need to build on our successes and use this year to show ourselves as the vibrant and relevant organisation which is Freemasonry.

Looking forward to the Tercentenary in this issue of Freemasonry Today, Keith Gilbert highlights the planning and organisation of celebratory events taking place across not just the UK but the entire world. As Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes notes in his Senior Insights column, these are exciting times, so we should celebrate in style by showing our pride in being Freemasons.

When it comes to showing the best in Freemasonry, Spinnaker Lodge in the Province of Hampshire & Isle of Wight is a shining beacon. We find out how its members are encouraging younger Freemasons into the Craft with a shared interest in all things sailing. The sixth specialist lodge in the Province to be consecrated in the past four years, Spinnaker will be visiting new marinas and hosting social events at sailing clubs to raise both its own profile and that of Freemasonry in 2017.

Best foot forward

In the north-west of England, we meet a 54-strong group of Freemasons, their families and friends who trekked across Morecambe Bay. Cumberland & Westmorland Provincial Grand Master Norman Thompson and his intrepid travellers not only raised money to help victims of the Cumbria floods, but also showed how Freemasonry is connecting with local communities. The team joined some 1,000 walkers at Arnside Promenade to brave the wet and puddled sands for a memorable day that is now an annual event in the Provincial calendar.

The opportunities for Freemasonry are not just in the face we show the world, but are also in our governance, our leadership, our retention and our management of masonic halls. The Chairman of the Improvement Delivery Group, David Wootton, reports on how he and his team are leading the implementation and delivery of our agreed strategy for Freemasonry to 2020. As David notes, there is much to do but also much to enjoy.

Willie Shackell
Grand Secretary

‘We need to use this year to show ourselves as vibrant and relevant’

Published in UGLE

A year to be proud of

From fundraising to the formation of new masons clubs, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes reflects  on the reasons to celebrate Freemasonry in 2017

I have received a copy of the Report of the New and Young Masons Clubs’ Conference and was delighted to learn just how well the clubs are progressing with more than 30 established across London and the Provinces. This is a fantastic achievement and I would encourage those new Freemasons in Provinces without such a club to consider setting one up. You would have our full support and I am sure you would be greatly encouraged by your Provincial hierarchy.

I have asked Gareth Jones, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales and Third Grand Principal, to act as the focal point for the movement. It really is a splendid initiative and I congratulate all those involved.

Shared achievement

I have frequently said how proud we should be of all our charities, and not just the big four. They all do tremendous work. The astonishing sum of £14.5 million was raised through the hard work of our brethren. The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Festival total of nearly £7.75 million is the highest total ever achieved.

Across the board, the money raised per capita by all four Provinces in Festival during 2016 was extraordinary and of a similar level. Your generosity is not taken for granted and is greatly appreciated.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation has launched a scheme to give £3 million to your local charities next year in recognition of both its own formation and, of course, our Tercentenary. This not only shows your generosity but is also aimed at promoting our involvement in the community.

Cause for celebration

I know that some of you have become frustrated at not being able to get hold of a Tercentenary Jewel. Please be assured that there are now plenty available in Letchworth’s Shop. Unfortunately, initial demand far outstripped supply. In spite of your frustration, may I ask you to beware of cheap imitations. Sadly, they do exist and are being offered at a very reduced price, but they are unauthorised and unlawful copies. We are working closely with the Provinces to get them all removed.

The forthcoming Sky documentary entitled Inside The Freemasons gives us a great opportunity to capitalise on the publicity being generated, and we anticipate that other high-profile events throughout the year will keep us in the public eye and produce some really positive results.

These are exciting times; let us celebrate in style by showing our pride in and talking about our membership. I am absolutely certain that we will all enjoy a splendid year in 2017.

‘Your generosity is not taken for granted and is greatly appreciated’

Published in UGLE

All aboard

With a passion for sailing, the members of Spinnaker Lodge want to help younger Freemasons navigate their way through the Craft, as Matthew Bowen discovers

It’s not often that you hear the words ‘pontoon party’ and ‘Freemasonry’ together. Formal suits aren’t exactly de rigueur at the marina and aprons tend not to mix well with high winds. But the members of a new lodge see sailing and Freemasonry as perfect crew mates.

In November 2016, Spinnaker Lodge, No. 9932, became the sixth specialist lodge in the Province of Hampshire & Isle of Wight to be consecrated in the past four years under the leadership of Provincial Grand Master Mike Wilks. Like other specialist lodges, such as Football Lodge and Chequered Flag Lodge, Spinnaker centres its proceedings around a common interest; charitable giving will focus on supporting boating charities – and members will travel to meetings by boat.

So how to go about creating a specialist lodge? The first step, according to the lodge’s inaugural Master, Frank Milner, was to see how many of the Province’s 9,000 members were interested in sailing. As the proud owner of a Moody 27 yacht himself, Frank tested the water by issuing a circular, Calling All Yachtsmen.

One of the first to respond to Frank’s invitation was Adam Harvey, who is now the Junior Warden at Spinnaker Lodge. ‘I’ve been sailing since I was 12 or 13,’ he says, ‘so when I saw the invitation I couldn’t turn it down. It struck me as a good thing to have something else to bond over in addition to being brothers.’

Frank’s original intention had been to start a sailing club, rather than a masonic lodge, but encouraged by a 25-strong crew of the keenest boatmen in the Province, he decided to push his idea further. Together they took on the challenge of founding the new lodge.

‘It’s been a learning curve,’ says Frank. ‘If you join an established lodge, the traditions are already in place, but when you find yourself making on-the-spot decisions about how to run a double initiation ceremony, for example, you realise you have a task on your hands.’

Some of the decisions were easy to make: naturally, all members must have an interest in boating (though owning a boat is not a requirement) and they must all be prepared to learn the words to the official lodge song, What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor.

Navigating new waters

Deciding how to appeal to new, younger members, however, has proven to be a trickier affair. ‘We are working hard to bridge the gap between young, trendy sailing guys and our traditional formalities by developing our meetings to meet their expectations,’ says Frank, determinedly. In the face of declining membership, he believes that appealing to the younger generation is crucial for Freemasonry, and his greatest hope for the new lodge is to see younger masons coming up through the ranks.

To make ritualistic masonic life appeal to millennial males, Frank is aware that he must be flexible with the rules. As well as applying the principles of brevity, the lodge will operate in a somewhat nomadic fashion as it casts its net wider in the search for new members.

Meetings at the lodge’s official headquarters, the Royal Naval and Royal Albert Yacht Club in Southsea, will be limited to twice a year, with three more taking place at other masonic centres along the coast, where members will cast anchor for the weekend. By visiting new marinas and hosting social events at sailing clubs, it is hoped that the profile of Spinnaker Lodge will rise among those who could potentially make perfect new members.

Given that the modern man is likely to be time poor, what would convince him to join Spinnaker Lodge? ‘Aside from the personal development opportunities, younger members will be able to tap into the knowledge of more experienced sailors,’ says Frank. By joining older brethren on their boats, younger sailors will be shown the ropes on different crafts.

‘We are working hard to bridge the gap between young, trendy sailing guys and our traditional formalities by developing our meetings to meet their expectations’ Frank Milner

Smooth sailing

As far as Adam is concerned, special interest lodges are the way forward for Freemasonry, enhancing the appeal of joining as well as creating greater enthusiasm among masons. And when it comes to getting greater commitment from existing members, the founding members of Spinnaker Lodge know there’s nothing more powerful than family.

By holding lodge meetings at weekends, and setting up temporary bases in marinas within easy distance of a masonic hall, Spinnaker Lodge offers family members the chance to meet and socialise. Senior Warden Adrian Cleightonhills, who sails a Southerly 32, says, ‘I’m keen that Freemasonry shouldn’t just be for the man of the house. It can take a fair amount of his time and I feel that it should be done with the encouragement, and involvement, of his family.’

Women and non-masonic members of the family won’t take part in lodge meetings, but they’ll keep the party going while the meetings take place, which is proving to be a popular notion. ‘When we’ve spoken to potential new members, this is the thing they show most interest in alongside the sailing,’ says Adrian.

Anchored in tradition

But Spinnaker Lodge will not only apply itself to appealing to new members; moral and spiritual values will not be compromised, and the lodge will remain dedicated to being a force for good in the community. Spinnaker will choose a sailing charity to support each year – this year it’s the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust – and the personal progression of members will be enhanced by developing them as sailors as well as men. And while the lodge would like its membership to double over the next five years, it’s not its biggest priority and won’t be achieved at any cost.

At the lodge’s first meeting in January this year, Spinnaker initiated two new members, both in their 20s and both keen boatmen.

They are the future of the lodge, and their success within it will ultimately reflect the lodge’s success as a whole. The winds of change are certainly blowing in Spinnaker’s sails and, as Frank says, ‘it’s all up for grabs’.

FIND OUT MORE Contact Spinnaker Lodge at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Refresh for Ripon Cathedral

Ripon Cathedral has received two grants totalling £12,500 from the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, which will help to pay for the renewal of ancient flagstones.

The Dean of Ripon John Dobson received the two grants – one for £7,500 from West Riding Masonic Charities Limited, and a second of £5,000 from the Masonic Charitable Foundation. These were presented by David Pratt, PGM; Jack Pigott, Chairman of West Riding Masonic Charities; and Paul Clarke, APGM.

Best foot forward

When a group of Freemasons came together to make their way across Morecambe Bay, they not only enjoyed the stunning Cumbria views but also raised money for good causes on the way

On a warm clear day last year, a group of 54 people, made up of Freemasons, their families and friends, trekked across Morecambe Bay.

The intrepid team, which included Cumberland & Westmorland Provincial Grand Master, Norman Thompson, and Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Ian D’Arcy, joined 1,000 walkers at Arnside Promenade, where Cedric Robinson MBE, the Queen’s Guide to the Sands of Morecambe Bay, took charge.

Robinson led the group on to the beach following one of the most beautiful coastlines in Britain, cutting through Silverdale and out across the sands, heading down the bay towards Heysham. Many walkers, some barefoot, braved the wet and puddled sands as the expeditionary group followed the receding tide down the bay, taking in the glorious views across to Lancaster, the Lake District fells and Furness Peninsula.

‘Two hours into the journey, a race commenced across the thigh-deep water to the other side’

Two hours into the journey, walkers gathered in the middle of the bay alongside the River Kent. On Robinson’s command, a race commenced across the thigh-deep water to the other side. Fortunately, it was not too cold and, once everyone had safely crossed, the group changed direction, heading back up the bay towards Kents Bank, negotiating the wetlands and gullies along the way as they approached dry land at the railway station.

With gift aid, the masonic walkers and supporters raised in the region of £2,400 for the Provincial Grand Master’s charity, helping victims of the Cumbria floods, among other deserving causes.

The walk has become an annual event in the Provincial calendar, with the next one happening on Saturday, 17 June 2017 as part of the Tercentenary celebrations. Cumberland & Westmorland invites members and friends of all Provinces to come along for a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Find out more: contact Peter Caunce at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

RW Bro David Hagger, Provincial Grand Masterfor Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, visited the headquarters of Lifelites on Wednesday 15th December 2016 for a demonstration of some of the equipment that is provided by the charity to children’s hospices

Lifelites began as project within the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys and became an independent charity in 2006. It provides specialist entertainment, educational and assistive technology packages to over 9,000 children and young people with life-limiting, life-threatening and disabling conditions in children's hospices including Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People based in Loughborough. 

Caroline Powell, Lifelites Training Manager, drives the Lifelites' training strategy to ensure all of the donated equipment is utilised to its full potential by hospice staff was delighted to demonstrate some of the equipment including Eyegaze which makes a computer accessible for disabled young people. Through a sensor, Eyegaze allows them to track their eye movements enabling them to move the cursor around the screen. Children whose carers and families thought they were unable to communicate, can now do so with this magical technology – they can tell their carers what they would like to eat or drink and can even, for the first time, tell their parents that they love them.

Simone Enefer-Doy, Chief Executive of Lifelites said: 'We are hoping to provide Rainbows in Leicestershire with another new package of our latest technologies in 2018 and will be fundraising for that project in the New Year.'

Published in Lifelites
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