Celebrating 300 years

In the bright sunshine, Exeter Cathedral was the picturesque setting as 800 Devonshire Freemasons, dressed in regalia, made their way to the Tercentenary Service of Thanksgiving with their families to celebrate 300 years since the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge

The Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire RW Bro Ian Kingsbury and his Executive were accompanied by the Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton and the Grand Chancellor Derek Dinsmore, as well as the Lord Lieutenant of Devon, the Lord Mayor of Exeter and Vice Chairman of the County Council.

The Tercentenary Service of Thanksgiving was held on the anniversary date of the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England on June 24th 1717.

Masonic bell ringers led by James Kirkcaldy heralded the service, as 32 lodges displayed their beautiful banners while the full choir of Exeter Cathedral took them through a truly masonic service of Thanksgiving.

There were many highlights including the readings by the PGM and Executive and the Tercentenary Oration given by W Bro Reuben Ayres which detailed the exciting journey Freemasonry has made in the last 300 years.

Please scroll through the gallery at the top to view all the photos from the service

Wednesday, 14 June 2017 09:31

Pro Grand Master's address - June 2017

Quarterly Communication

14 June 2017 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, as we approach the 24th June 2017, the actual date of our Tercentenary Anniversary, it is very fitting that at this meeting we look back on our history with pride. John Hamill, in his inimitable style, has reminded us of the debt we owe to the Time Immemorial Lodges whose foresight set us on our current path and the Grand Master will be unveiling a plaque recognising this next week. Whilst mentioning the Grand Master it is fitting to remember the debt we owe him and recognise that today is 50 years to the day since he was elected as our Grand Master. How fortunate we have been.

We also congratulate W Bro Cyril McGibbon whose 105th birthday it is today. He still attends every meeting, rather appropriately, of Lodge of Perseverance No. 155 and recently proposed the toast to the ladies at their last ladies’ evening.

On the 18th April we remembered all our brethren who have fallen since 1945 in the service of their country by opening the Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum and, a week later, in the presence of the Grand Master, we remembered with pride those of our brethren awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War in a magnificent ceremony outside the Tower Entrance to Freemasons’ Hall. For those unable to witness that event a DVD has been produced, the proceeds of which will be donated to the VC and GC Association.

And so, as we look back with pride, we must look forward with confidence, recognising that we are a real force for good in society and have so much to contribute to it. The Sky TV programme has given us an amazing platform and viewing figures have been good. The series has been well received and our Provinces are reporting a real upsurge of interest which I know you are capitalising on in order to secure our future. In addition, brethren, I believe it has enabled us to be aware of how important it is to talk openly about our Freemasonry and, perhaps, even how best to do so. For those without Sky TV, a DVD has been produced which is available in the Letchworth’s shop as from today.

Brethren, as Pro Grand Master, it is very encouraging, yet humbling, to witness just how much effort you are all putting in to promoting our masonic values and making this Tercentenary year such a tremendous success. I congratulate you all. Your charitable giving never ceases to amaze me and, at the recent Sussex Festival for the Grand Charity, a magnificent total of £3,617,437 was raised. This has been followed by the West Yorkshire Festival for the RMBI, which raised £3,300,300. These are fantastic results and, brethren, I now have firm figures which show that last year we not only supported our own brethren with over £15 million in grants, but helped non-masonic charities with grants in excess of £17 million.

Brethren, this year the nation has been rocked by a number of serious terrorist attacks at Westminster Bridge, the Manchester Arena and at London Bridge. You should be aware that we have received numerous letters of support and concern from other Sovereign Grand Lodges around the world, some enclosing generous cheques to the East Lancashire Fund which have supplemented the extreme generosity shown by many towards this fund and I have been assured by the PGM that the money will be spent wisely where need is identified. Thank you so much.

Brethren, whilst congratulating you on all your efforts, I must pay tribute to my fellow Rulers who have been globe-trotting on our behalf. The Deputy Grand Master has paid a second visit to India this year, this time to attend the District of Northern India’s Tercentenary celebrations having previously been to Bombay and then followed this by attending a Regional Conference in Jamaica. The Assistant Grand Master, as President of the Universities’ Scheme, invaded South Africa with a very strong team. He followed this, immediately after our Grand Investiture, with a gala lunch and banner dedication in Malta. As a past Ruler, David Williamson kindly represented us in Gibraltar and just to show that I have not been sitting idly by, I have just returned from a most enjoyable visit to our District in The Eastern Archipelago having previously visited Bermuda for the bicentenary of their Lodge of Loyalty.

Carrying out these visits is a great privilege and our brethren in the District really value our presence and have great pride in being members of the oldest Grand Lodge. Their hospitality is most generous as they try to kill us with their kindness. Sleep is rarely on the agenda.

Brethren, many of you here today, in fact I would say the majority of you, are wearing the Tercentenary jewel and I have been impressed by the take-up of them, particularly in the Districts. Now that we have overcome the supply problem I hope you will encourage members of your lodges to acquire one if they have not already done so.

That brings me neatly on to the subject of the very fine Tercentenary Master’s collar ornament. Many Masters’ collars display the 250th or 275th jewel and as from 24th June, surely the 300th would be more appropriate and if lodges are not displaying any jewel then surely now is the time to show pride in having reached this landmark. It is a very fine silver gilt ornament and whilst I have one here, the best way for you to see it is to acquire one for your lodge.


Finally, brethren, at this meeting, I normally tell you to enjoy the summer break and come back refreshed which, of course, I hope you will. But, the number of events between now and September is staggering. May I suggest that you enjoy them and use them to reinvigorate our lodges. I feel immensely proud to be leading such a vibrant organisation at this time.

Thank you all.

Published in Speeches

The Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum was dedicated by the Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England Peter Lowndes on Tuesday 18th April

He was assisted by the Provincial Grand Chaplain, the Reverend Bernard Buttery, in the presence of over 200 invited guests, who included the Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire Ian Dudson, the Mayor of the Borough of East Staffordshire Beryl Toon and the Mayor of Tamworth Ken Norchi, as well as the Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, the Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton and the Provincial Grand Master of Staffordshire John Lockley.

The garden in Staffordshire commemorates Freemasons who have served their country and made the ultimate sacrifice in helping to defend their country in two World Wars and other conflicts.

Many people have been involved in the work to design and build the garden and one freemason Eddie Ford from Burton-upon-Trent has worked tirelessly to see the project to fruition.

Members of three Universities Scheme Lodges meeting in the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland - Wyggeston Lodge No.3448, which is the Universities Scheme Lodge for the University of Leicester, Castle of Leicester No.7767 (De Montfort University) and Lodge of Science and Art No.8429 (Loughborough University) - met together for a joint meeting to celebrate the success of the Universities Scheme in the Province together with the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England.

The meeting, which was held at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester, on Saturday 25th February 2017 was attended by over 90 brethren who witnessed 3 ceremonies (an Initiation, a Passing and a Raising) with multiple candidates and conducted in turn by each of the lodges.

The Lodges were extremely honoured to welcome the Assistant Grand Master, RW Bro Sir David Wootton, who is President of the Universities Scheme, along with the Scheme Chairman, W Bro Edward Lord. Also attending were the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro James Buckle, the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro Peter Kinder, brethren representing ten other Scheme Lodges, and with other visitors.

After the Master of Wyggeston Lodge Master, W Bro Yogesh Patel, opened the meeting at 2.30pm, the Master of Castle of Leicester Lodge, W Bro Daniel Hayward, along with members of the lodge conducted a triple Raising. Following a short tea break it was the turn of Lodge of Science and Art to conduct a Passing. Finally, after a further tea break, Wyggeston Lodge conducted an Initiation ceremony for three new members, two of whom are students at the University of Leicester.

The meeting was followed by a wonderful Festive Board, where the lodges enjoyed a hearty three course dinner and the company of the guests and visitors. A raffle held in aid the Alderman Newton’s Educational Foundation, which is a local charity offering financial support to individuals and schools to help people access education or training opportunities in Leicestershire, raised £420. A collection for the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2022 Festival also raised £422 including Gift Aid.

W Bro Andy Green, organiser of the event and Vice-Chairman of the Universities Scheme, said: “Getting the three lodges together provided a wonderful occasion to celebrate the Universities Scheme in the Province and to mark the Tercentenary of Grand Lodge. It was encouraging to see so many younger members enjoying their Freemasonry, which created a real buzz throughout the day.”

 

Published in Universities Scheme

Unique occasion for Univesities Scheme

Yesterday at Freemasons' Hall was the unique consecration of David Kenneth Williamson Lodge No. 9938. 

The new lodge, which was sponsored by Lodge of Antiquity No. 2, is to be the Installed Masters’ lodge for the Universities Scheme, of which David Williamson, Past Assistant Grand Master, was the first President.

The consecration was done by Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, with David subsequently installed as the Primus Master by the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence.  David's first act as Worshipful Master was to invest the Assistant Grand Master, Sir David Wootton, as the acting Immediate Past Master.  It is a very rare thing to get all three Rulers at an event other than Grand Lodge!

David Williamson tweeted:

David Kenneth Williamson

David Kenneth Williamson was born in Bombay, India in October 1943. He was educated at King Edward VI School, Lichfield, Queen Mary College, University of London, and King's College, Cambridge.

Having trained to be a pilot, after winning an RAF flying scholarship aged seventeen, and following a brief spell as a schoolmaster, David joined the British Overseas Airways Corporation (now British Airways) in 1968. He became Assistant Flight Training Manager on the Boeing 737, before undertaking the same role on the Boeing 747-400 fleet until he retired in 1998.

He was initiated into Freemasonry in the Andover Combined Services Lodge, No. 8300, aged 29 on the 17th April 1972, and was Master of that Lodge in 1982. Despite being initiated in the Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight, it was in Middlesex that David's Masonic career took hold. He was appointed a Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1992, Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies from 1995 to 1997, and Deputy Provincial Grand Master from 2000 to 2001.

Within Grand Lodge, he was appointed an Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1995, and a Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies from 1998 until his appointment as Assistant Grand Master in March 2001, a role he held for thirteen years. He served as a Grand Steward on the 2014-2 15 Board. He founded the Universities Scheme in 2005 andwas its President until 2015.

Outside the Craft, he was Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter from 2010 to 2016, Grand Senior Warden in the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons in 2002, and in 2014 became a member of the Supreme Council 33° of the Ancient and Accepted Rite for England and Wales and its Districts and Chapters Overseas (as Grand Chancellor).

The Universities Scheme 

The Universities Scheme was founded in 2005 to establish or enhance arrangements and opportunities for undergraduates and other University members to join and enjoy Freemasonry. Building on the centuries old traditions of University Masonry at Oxford and Cambridge, the Scheme works with Provinces, Districts, and the Metropolitan Grand Lodge to identify Lodges, and now Royal Arch Chapters, willing to reach out and welcome young men from their local universities to join the Craft and Royal Arch.

The Scheme currently includes 72 Lodges and 3 Chapters, across the English Constitution. The 'DKW' Lodge will be its 73rd and will serve as the Scheme's Installed Masters' Lodge.

Published in UGLE

At a very special evening, over 80 members and guests of St Paul’s Lodge No. 5459 assembled in the McCausland Suite at Widnes Masonic Hall where they were honoured by the presence of the Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton at the initiation ceremony of Christopher (Chris) George Farley

Also present was Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning and Assistant Provincial Grand Masters Kevin Poynton and Robert Wright.

The lodge was opened by the WM David Berrington and the usual administration undertaken. A ballot was then taken to admit the candidate, Mr Chris Fairley into Freemasonry, the ballot proved favourable to the candidate. The secretary and treasurer confirmed that the candidate had paid his dues and signed the necessary declaration.

There was then a report and the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Keith Kemp entered the lodge to announce that the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison stood without and demanded admission. David said that he and the brethren would be pleased to receive him.

Tony processed into the lodge accompanied by Philip Gunning, Kevin Poynton, Robert Wright, Neil Pedder (Widnes Group Chairman) and other acting Provincial grand officers. David warmly welcomed Tony to the lodge and offered him the gavel of the lodge trusting that he would have an enjoyable evening. Tony returned the gavel thanking David for the warm welcome and was looking forward to the ceremony and the festive board.

DC Joe Stanners retired from the lodge and on his return, he announced that the Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton stood without and demanded admission. The WM said he and the brethren would be extremely pleased to receive him. Sir David processed into the lodge led by AGDC Barry McCormack with Ian Grindley and David Clews acting as Provincial deacons. Sir David was accompanied by grand officers Alan Locke, David Redhead, Derek Williams, Sam Robinson, Dennis Rudd and Andy Whittle.

David Berrington gave a very warm welcome to Sir David and thanked him for accepting his invitation. He was offered the gavel of the lodge which he returned saying that he would prefer to see the ceremony done the ‘Widnes way’.

At the appropriate time, Mr Chris Farley was admitted in due form and regularly initiated into Freemasonry by the WM David Berrington in an exemplary manner. Chris was guided on his journey through the ceremony by the junior deacon Ian Morris assisted by the senior deacon George Yarwood. David directed Chris to the senior warden Les Williams who gave a fine explanation of the working tools of the first degree. Excellent musical accompaniment throughout the ceremony was provided by the Provincial Grand Organist Stephen Derringer.

Following the explanation of the working tools, Chris retired from the lodge and on his return the charge after initiation was delivered by David Clews in a manner any thespian would have been proud of and gained him loud acclamation.

Sir David rose to congratulate the WM and the officers who participated in what was a memorable ceremony. He made special mention of David Clews, saying that he had never heard a better rendition of the charge of initiation. 

The lodge was closed in due form by the WM and the brethren processed out of the lodge and assembled in the Alan Locke Suite for a superb festive board supplied by the hall catering staff Sugar and Spice.

After receiving the principal guest Sir David Wootton and other distinguished guest to the festive board the brethren sat to enjoy a three course meal of fish cakes with seasonal salad, chicken breast in white wine and mushroom sauce and homemade sherry trifle accompanied with wine and followed by tea or coffee.

Once the brethren had been wined and dined they stood to sing the national anthem and raised their glasses to the Queen. Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison proposed the toast to the Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton thanking him for his attendance and making it a very special evening for St Paul’s Lodge and specially the candidate Chris.

Sir David responded to the toast to his health by again congratulated the WM David Berrington for an excellent ceremony and that he had now experienced the ‘Widnes way’, he would ensure that when he returned to Grand Lodge he would pass on that experience. He was pleased to see that Widnes Group was embracing the Tercentenary celebrations and was impressed by the plaque which had been commissioned for the event.

David Berrington, who proposed Chris into Freemasonry, proposed the toast to the initiate Chris and welcomed him as a member of St Paul’s Lodge. David said that by the way he had conducted himself in the ceremony he had no doubt he would make it as a Mason. He informed the brethren that Chris had two or three friends who wish to join, which is good news for the lodge and Widnes masonry in general. Chris responded by thanking everybody for making it a night to remember.

Provincial Senior Grand Warden John Lee responded to the toast to the guest with humour and sincerity. He complimented the WM on a faultless ceremony and also the senior warden Les Williams for the explanation of the working tools. John also agreed with the AGM Sir David that the charge by David Clews to the initiate was outstanding.

Unfortunately, the time came for the principal guests to retire, at which the AGM Sir David Wootton was presented with a bottle of whisky and the PrGM Tony Harrison presented with a bouquet of flowers for his wife Maureen. It was a delightful and memorable evening which was enjoyed by all present.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 09:37

Deputy Grand Master's address - September 2016

Quarterly Communication

14 September 2016 
An address by the RW Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence

Brethren, I am delighted to see so many of you here today and I hope you have all had a suitably refreshing summer. I am particularly pleased to see a large number of younger masons amongst us, especially the delegations from the Provinces of Cambridgeshire and Durham, members of the Universities Scheme and especially those of the Apollo University Lodge in Oxford.

Many of you will be aware of the excellent work undertaken by the Membership Focus Group over the last two and a half years. I hope that you are all still referring to the UGLE strategy, which was a significant development resulting from the group’s work. 

We have now moved to ensuring the timely implementation of the strategy and the Membership Focus Group has been superseded by the Improvement Delivery Group. This group will, rather like a well- known wood treatment product, “do exactly what it says on the tin”. Its remit is to facilitate the delivery of change throughout the Craft in order to secure a successful future for Freemasonry by meeting the needs of “modern man” while retaining our traditional standards; it is chaired by the Assistant Grand Master, the Third Grand Principal is Deputy Chairman and the membership is drawn from London and all the regional groups of Provinces. 

This group will be “bedding in” for the next year, but will be reporting to Grand Lodge at the Quarterly Communication in September 2017. There is a considerable amount of work to do and we wish them all well in their endeavours.

Brethren, the Tercentenary celebrations have already begun and I am very pleased to see the variety and breadth of events that are planned to mark this significant milestone in our history. Events are being planned throughout the English Constitution. 

So far well over 100 events are scheduled ranging from Cathedral Services, Race Meetings, and Classic Car Rallies; Family Fun Weekends, supporting Youth Activities, to Dinners and Balls, including “The Grand Ball” which will take place here next September and will see this Grand Temple converted into one of the largest dance floors in LondAs the premier Grand Lodge it is appropriate we also celebrate this achievement with the other Sovereign Grand Lodges around the world, which we will do with the event at the Royal Albert Hall. I very much hope there will be a full cross section of our membership, including Master Masons, from London, Provinces and Districts and elsewhere overseas attending the meeting at the Royal Albert Hall.

As you are all aware 2017 will start with the broadcast in January of the Sky observational documentary.  I have been fortunate enough to have been part of the small group that has seen all the programmes and whilst, for confidential reasons, I am unable to say more about their content, I can assure you our privacy has been respected entirely for those matters that ought to remain private for our members.

Brethren, it has become very noticeable that the times in which we live are described with some use of either uncertain or uncertainty, or a variation thereof. Uncertainty is used to describe many aspects of our national life almost as a default mechanism. In many ways our predecessors who were there at the foundation of the Grand Lodge would have felt a certain affinity and seen possible parallels with their own time, although they would probably have used the word turbulent to describe the second decade of the eighteenth century.

In their case the uncertain times included significant change with a new ruling dynasty following the accession of King George I in 1714, a significant rebellion from supporters of the old dynasty defeated in 1715 and an incipient share scandal with the South Sea Bubble gently inflating until the spectacular bust. In those and, indeed , in the intervening uncertain times of the subsequent three hundred years, the principles of the Craft have withstood the test of time and are as relevant today as they were then. 

We may now restate them in more modern language as integrity; honesty; fairness; kindness and tolerance, but their essence is unchanged and we should all be justly proud of them and, needless to say, act in accordance with them. 

To finish, I will quote King Frederick II, or The Great, of Prussia who said his support of the Craft came from its objectives being, “ the intellectual elevation of men as members of society and making them more virtuous and more charitable”. I do not think that his view can be bettered. 

 

Published in Speeches

Canterbury evensong for Royal Arch

The choral evensong congregation at Canterbury Cathedral was enhanced by almost 500 companions, brethren, their families and friends coming together for the Province of East Kent’s Royal Arch biennial church service.

Led by Grand Superintendent Geoffrey Dearing, distinguished guests included Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton, Third Grand Principal David Williamson, the then Metropolitan Grand Master Russell Race and several neighbouring Provincial Grand Masters. 

Guests were able to view the Ancestors exhibit, a series of life-size figures representing the Ancestors of Christ that date to the 12th and early 13th centuries. These beautiful examples of medieval stained glass had been temporarily removed from the Cathedral’s Great South Window while conservation work was carried out on its crumbling stonework. They were on display in the Chapter House, the East Window of which was a gift from the Freemasons of Kent.

Derbyshire’s festival finale

Freemasons and their families in Derbyshire have made a £2.4 million donation to the MSF after a six-year fundraising appeal

More than eight hundred Derbyshire Freemasons and guests gathered at the magnificent Devonshire Dome in Buxton for a gala dinner to celebrate the finale of the Derbyshire 2014 Festival, which raised the tremendous sum of £2,414,016.

During the meal, diners were entertained by the Three Waiters, singing popular operatic tunes, and a Fab Four tribute band playing Beatles hits. For the first time in an MSF Festival, and the second time in Derbyshire’s history, every masonic unit in every order made a donation. Members of Craft lodges in the Province donated an average of £741 each.

Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton congratulated the Province on its fundraising and on organising the occasion. MSF President Willie Shackell added, ‘Not only will this generous donation help the Fund to support the health and care needs of individuals but it will also enable us to continue funding much-needed medical research.’

Supporting wider needs

The MSF has expressed its thanks to all its fundraisers for their generosity in ensuring that sufficient funds are available to meet demand

Commenting on the MSF’s achievements in the last financial year (Oct 2013-Sep 2014), Chief Executive Richard Douglas notes that the Fund has allocated more grants than ever before: ‘1,578 grants have been given to support 1,462 applicants covering all areas of the Fund’s work: medical, dental, mobility, home adaptation, respite, counselling and consultation needs. This is a 12% increase in funds allocated and a 21% increase in the number of individuals supported compared with the previous year. The Fund allocated nearly £4.4 million to individuals, or £12,000 a day, across the year.’

Published in Masonic Samaritan Fund
Thursday, 04 September 2014 01:00

Beyond the city

Talk of the town

A city lawyer by profession, Sir David Wootton is the new Assistant Grand Master. He talks to Luke Turton about his time as London’s Lord Mayor and why he likes to perform

You’ve been an alderman, chairman, Liveryman, almoner, chancellor and Lord Mayor of London. Would it be fair to say that you like to keep busy?

Most really good things that have come my way haven’t come from some master plan, but because I’ve said yes to something that has led on to something else. I do say no to a lot of things, but I always think twice because you’re not just turning down that opportunity, but all the things you can’t see down the line that it could lead to. 

What connects all the different kinds of activities you’ve been involved in?

If I try and work out a pattern to my life, it’s where there’s been a job that involves performing in some way – whether it’s masonic ritual, making speeches as Lord Mayor or talking to clients of the law firm. I’m less successful at debating in a big crowd, so I wouldn’t be particularly good as a Member of Parliament.

How do you balance all your responsibilities?

I’ve had a career as a city lawyer in the field of corporate transactions. That requires you to operate on a tight timescale, invariably set by other people, which is often halved. In comparison to that high-pressure environment, the collection of jobs I have now is fairly relaxed because on most occasions the dates of things are known in advance. I’ve got masonic events in my diary for the next five years. That’s a great help and far easier than my life as a city lawyer, where most meetings in my diary are suddenly cancelled or come out of nowhere.

What was it like being Lord Mayor?

You operate on a different level. We all have a normal level at which we live – I’m a solicitor with a family living in Sevenoaks. We go to the shops and plan holidays. 

If you envisage that as living on the twentieth floor of a building, being Lord Mayor is like being put in a lift and being sent up to live on the eightieth floor for a year, where people operate on an entirely different plane.  

The people who work on the eightieth floor have normal concerns like everyone else, such as worrying about whether their ties are straight or not, but they’ve also got something special about them – an ability. Moving at that level was an interesting experience, but I’m really happy being back at the twentieth floor again.

‘When I was elected in 2002 to the City Council, someone said that I‘d have to come to Guildhall Lodge, No. 3116. There have been close connections for a long time between it and Freemasons’ Hall, with the Rulers attending. I liked doing ritual and I must have been noticed.’

As Lord Mayor of London, in the wake of the recent financial crisis, did you want to help change perceptions about the City? 

The City isn’t good at fighting its PR battles. City businesses don’t like getting involved in public arguments; they don’t like politics and prefer to do things quietly behind the scenes. Therefore, when there’s a big crisis, other people who are much better at getting their story over heap all the blame for everything on the City, which is weak at replying. Part of the job for me as Lord Mayor was to try and re-address that, to help recognise that part of the criticism was rational and objective, but also to see that part of it was emotional. 

How did you counter the emotional arguments about the City?

With the emotional part, there’s nothing that you can do – you can’t rebut it with a rational argument. If you say the City’s good, that’s not going to convince people. You also look a bit foolish if something else comes out in the press. When I was in office, the story about Libor came out, which was portrayed as an attempt to rig interest rates. Subsequently, there have been revelations about misconduct in the foreign exchange markets, where things were going on that shouldn’t have been. So if you mount a full-throttle defence of the City as being a very good place, and that’s followed by bad publicity, then you lose credibility. You therefore have to be careful about picking your ground, so I decided to draw attention to the good things that the City was doing – pointing to things like the jobs outside of London that depended on it, and hoped that, in due course, I could change the climate. 

Why did you become a Freemason?

I rowed at university and in my last days there I was asked by one of the rowing coaches if I was going to work in London. He said that there was a society that I should consider joining. It turned out to be Argonauts Lodge, No. 2243, which was a rowing lodge. They met in the Lloyds Building in the City, which wasn’t too far from my office. Most of the people there had coached me on the river at university; I think the Craft works well when there’s an outside interest shared between its members.

How did you become Assistant Grand Master?

I went on for years only being a member of Argonauts Lodge as I didn’t have enough time to do much else. It’s only in the past ten years that I’ve been able to become more involved in Freemasonry. When I was elected in 2002 to the City Council, someone said that I’d have to come to Guildhall Lodge, No. 3116. There have been close connections for a long time between the lodge and Freemasons’ Hall, with the Rulers often attending. I like doing ritual and I must have been noticed. I was offered the chair of Guildhall Lodge, started to get to know people and became aware that the then Assistant Grand Master David Williamson wanted to retire. One thing led to another and I was asked if I wanted the position.

‘The principles of Freemasonry are very useful – they provide strong guidelines about your life. At the most basic level, they teach you that if you say you’re going to do something, then you should do it. Life operates better if you follow those rules.’

How does Freemasonry connect with the rest of your life?

The principles in Freemasonry are very useful – they provide strong guidelines about your life. At the most basic level, they teach you that if you say you’re going to do something, then you should do it. Life operates better if you follow those rules. I deal with people on the basis that I’ll come across them again and I want to be thought of in a positive way. In the business world, people often perceive that it’s to their advantage to do something that another party won’t like. I don’t want a reputation like that. 

I think this approach is largely down to Freemasonry.

What do you hope to achieve as Assistant Grand Master?

I’m encouraged to attend the major events at the Hall, the Quarterly Communications, the Annual Investiture and the Festivals. I’ll take over the Universities Scheme next year, as well as looking after overseas districts, but those are the set tasks. What I also want to do is to make sure that Freemasons outside London, outside the Hall, feel they are part of a United Grand Lodge. 

I’d like to make a contribution to improving the relationship between masons and non-masons, to counter the idea that people who practise the Craft are somehow a little bit different. There are also masons who are hesitant about admitting it as they’re worried others might not think they’re normal. We need to address both these internal and external perceptions.

I’d also like to help with improving recruitment and retention, to get younger members to join and to keep them. It’s a big undertaking, but I’m not alone and I see it as a fantastic opportunity – I’m looking forward to getting out and about in the country.

Published in UGLE
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