Giving continuity

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains how the new Masonic Charitable Foundation will offer support and services to those who need help

 In December 2014, I announced that the Grand Master’s Council and the Provincial Grand Masters’ Forum had endorsed proposals from the charities to consolidate the activities of the four central masonic charities. Subsequently, the proposals were endorsed by the Grand Master, and over the past nine months all four charities have launched consultations with their members. 

Should the members of each of the charities endorse the proposals, it is anticipated that a new charity will become operational on 1 April 2016. This new charity, subject to legal approvals, will be called the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). 

The MCF will continue to offer the same services to those Freemasons and family members who need help, as well as providing support for the non-masonic charitable causes that the Craft wishes to assist. Thus, continuity of our charitable giving will be achieved. The new charity will also continue to rely on the generosity of Freemasons for its funds, and the Festival system will transition in favour of the new charity over the next few years.

A shadow board comprising trustees from the existing charities has met and will, with the existing charities, oversee the creation of the new charity. The board has elected James Newman as interim chairman and Michael Heenan as interim treasurer. These changes will require amendments to the Book of Constitutions with formal notice of those amendments being brought to the December meeting of Grand Lodge.

‘The new masonic charity will be one of the largest charitable foundations in the country.’

Bringing the existing masonic charities together means that the trustees will be responsible for one of the largest charitable foundations in the country – a tremendous achievement and something of which we can all be proud.

When talking about our charities, I am inevitably reminded of Iain Bryce who so sadly died in July. Apart from his dedication to our masonic charities, he was also a long-serving treasurer of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. I first met him at his installation as Provincial Grand Master of Yorkshire, North and East Ridings in 1984. When Iain became involved in something, he gave it his full attention. 

I am sure that all the charity presidents who were in office during his time as Deputy Grand Master will have benefited enormously from his wise counsel. He was passionate about all of the charities and held strong views on their management. I shall miss him greatly and I know that I am far from alone in that.

Regular Convocation

11 November 2015
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes

Companions, I am very pleased to see so many of you present today to witness the Installation of Most Excellent Companion Russell Race as Second Grand Principal. On behalf of all of you I wish him a long and happy tenure in this important role.

It is to the future that we should now look, but I would like to repeat my thanks to Most Excellent Companion George Francis for his many achievements and tireless work in raising the profile of the Holy Royal Arch since his own Installation in November 2005.

Companions, today, apart from celebrating the Installation of a new Second Grand Principal you will all be aware that it is also Armistice Day when we commemorate those who gave their lives in two World Wars. The observant amongst you will have noticed that a poppy wreath has been laid at the memorial shrine in the first vestibule to this Grand Temple, in front of the casket which holds the roll listing over 3,000 of our members who gave their lives on active service in the First World War.

I think it is worth reminding ourselves, however, that it is not just the shrine which is the memorial but the whole of Freemasons’ Hall itself. Indeed, during the planning stages in the 1920s and the first years of its existence, the building was known as the Masonic Peace Memorial.

As a memorial it was originally intended that the building should be reserved solely for masonic purposes but time and economics and the fact that the building is now Grade 2* listed both internally and externally have gradually led to the building being opened for non-masonic events and filming.

I would assure you however, companions, that our excellent and hard-working in-house events team take great care to ensure that outside events, especially filming, are consistent with the building’s origins and core purpose. We have a building of which we can be justifiably proud which is recognised as one of the landmark buildings of London.

Today we remember not only those in whose name the building was raised but also the many other thousands of our members who gave their lives during the Second World War and the other conflicts that have taken place since then. Although we have already stood in memory of recently departed members, in particular Most Excellent Companion Iain Bryce, Past Second Grand Principal, I believe that on this special day we should stand again to remember those who gave their lives to preserve those ideals which allow Freemasonry to flourish.

Companions, on September 30th this year, a packed Grand Temple enjoyed a magnificent Inaugural Concert to celebrate the refurbishment of our organ and when Supreme Grand Chapter is closed I am sure you will enjoy the talk by Ian Bell, Organ Consultant entitled ‘Achieved is the Glorious Work or Proof of the Pudding’, with musical illustrations played by Excellent Companion David Cresswell, Grand Organist.

Thank you, companions.  

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 09 September 2015 00:00

Pro Grand Master's address - September 2015

Quarterly Communication

9 September 2015 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

I am pleased to see such a good attendance at this important meeting and on a day that Her Majesty the Queen becomes the longest reigning British Monarch.

Brethren, I would like to thank those members who have participated in the Membership Focus Group’s first two surveys. These survey results have been a great help in deciding the best way ahead for Freemasonry and have provoked much constructive thinking. You will be able to see the results of the most recent survey in the latest issue of Freemasonry Today, which has just been published.

The results of that second survey highlight the importance to members of being valued and included, while developing knowledge and friendships at the same time. The Membership Focus Group is next planning to survey new initiates to assess how their expectations match their experience and whether this experience changes over time.

In December 2014, I announced that the Grand Master’s Council and the Provincial Grand Masters’ Forum had endorsed proposals from the Charities to consolidate the activities of the four central Masonic Charities. Subsequently, the proposals were endorsed by the Grand Master. Over the last nine months, all four Charities have launched consultations with their members about the proposals. Having just formally finished the AGM of the Grand Charity, their consultation is now complete and the same process with the other Charities is due to conclude by the end of October. Should the members of each of the other Charities follow the lead of the Grand Charity and endorse the proposals, it is anticipated that a new charity will be legally established as soon as possible and become operational on 1 April 2016. This new charity, subject to legal approvals, will be called The Masonic Charitable Foundation.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation will continue to offer the same support and services to those Freemasons and family members who need help, as well as providing support for the non-Masonic charitable causes that the Craft wishes to assist. Thus continuity of our charitable giving will be achieved.

The new charity will continue to rely on the generosity of Freemasons for its funds. The Festival system will therefore transition in favour of the new charity over the next few years.

A shadow board, comprised of trustees from the existing Charities has met and will, with the existing charities, oversee the creation of the new charity and transition from the existing four charities into a single one. The Board has elected Very Worshipful Brother James Newman as interim Chairman and Worshipful Brother Michael Heenan as interim Treasurer.

These changes will require amendments to the Book of Constitutions with formal notice of those amendments being brought to the December meeting of Grand Lodge. In the meantime, further details about the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be made available over the next few months via a new website and general communications to the Craft.

Bringing the existing central Masonic Charities together means that the Trustees will be responsible for one of the largest charitable foundations in the country – a tremendous achievement and something of which we can all feel proud, particularly as we look towards the tercentenary celebrations in 2017.

When talking about our Charities, I am inevitably reminded of RW Bro Iain Bryce who so sadly died in July. Apart from his dedication to our Masonic Charities, he was also a long serving Treasurer of the RNLI.

I first met him at his Installation as PGM of Yorkshire N&E Ridings in 1984 and in the 30 years that I knew him, I can’t recall a cross word. He could upset people, can’t we all, but it was normally for a valid reason. When Bro Bryce became involved in something, he gave it his full attention. Masonically he was fully involved from Lodge level, through his Province to Grand Lodge and would take on any task asked of him.

I am sure that all the Charity Presidents who were in office during his time as Deputy Grand Master will have benefited enormously from his wise counsel. He was passionate about them all and held strong views on their management. His views were given in a forthright manner and were usually right. However, he would be first to admit he had got something wrong if that turned out to be the case.

Brethren, I shall miss him greatly and I know that I am far from alone in that.

Published in Speeches

Annual General Meeting of The Freemasons' Grand Charity

9 September 2015 
An address by Richard Hone, QC, President of The Freemasons' Grand Charity

The main change is to reduce the membership from the present 180,000 members to a single charitable company whose own 124 members – comprising the trustees of the new charity, plus members appointed by the 47 Provinces and the Metropolitan Grand Lodge. Experience has shown that 180,000 members are too many and the vast majority do not even know that they are members! Good governance is better achieved by a smaller number. The present members of the Grand Charity will become Supporters of the new charity and, in the rare case of dissent, can either contact their Provincial or London representatives, alternatively they can attend a general meeting and make their views known.

I want to inject a note of enthusiasm here because I am delighted to report that we have made significant progress in our overall aim to have the new, fifth, overarching charity up and running by 1 April 2016. As you will all know by now, over the past five years the four Presidents and Chief Executives of the central masonic charities have been meeting regularly with a view to making masonic charity a more coherent operation.

The present division between the four charities has become illogical and inefficient in the sense that there is now considerable overlap and duplication of function. Over the five year period of the review much has already been achieved.

There is unanimous agreement between the Presidents, the Chief Executives and all four trustee boards that the best way forward for masonic charity is to incorporate a new overarching charity with the widest charitable objects. This will optimise the resources of the four existing charities and ensure an improved service to our masonic and non-masonic beneficiaries.

This has been the most detailed review of masonic charity since the Bagnall Report in 1973 and builds on recommendations endorsed by the Provincial Grand Masters’ Forum in 2008. We have consulted widely.

At a meeting in October 2014 the PGMs supported the changes. My letters to members in March and July 2015 explaining the changes to Grand Charity have been distributed through Provincial and Lodge Secretaries. I have had half-a-dozen letters from individuals and lodges raising questions which I hope I have answered to their satisfaction. In general the response has been overwhelmingly supportive.

At the General Meeting in Norfolk on 15 November I was able to seek the views of those attending, and they indicated approval. In July 2015 there was a large meeting of Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Charity Stewards in Manchester with almost every Province represented and they were positive and enthusiastic. These proposals have been accepted by the Grand Master’s Council, the Grand Master’s Council Charity Committee and the Grand Master himself, in his capacity as Grand President of the four central masonic charities.

Although significant, this change is neither rocket science nor revolutionary. The four existing charities will remain in name and will hold their restricted funds, but their functions will be assumed by the new charity administered by a single Trustee Board of 20 members with a single Chief Executive, rather than the four existing Trustee Boards with their separate committees and administrations. Masonic charity is an extraordinary, but largely untold, story and truly is a terrific force for good. The four charities collectively distribute over £25 million each year and we are expecting to improve on that.

I am delighted to announce that the new charity has now been incorporated with agreed Articles of Association. This has been quite a complicated task and we are all extremely grateful to the Grand Registrar who has mediated differences of views with consummate forensic skill and tact. There is now in place a shadow Board of Trustees for the new charity, drawn from the existing trustees of the four charities and working alongside the existing trustee boards. It is a most impressive group and I have no doubt that it will be ensure a smooth transition and a first rate administration from its operational date which is 1 April 2016.

All that remains is for the new charity to be registered with the Charity Commission and for an agreed Memorandum of Understanding between the existing charities and the new charity.

But we do need you, the members, to support this exciting work and vote in favour of this resolution. I now have great pleasure in proposing that the amendments to the Trust Deed and the Regulations of Grand Charity, subject to meeting the conditions specified, be ratified and that the Report of the Council be approved.

[The amendments were approved]

Thank you. As this is the last AGM of Grand Charity, I would like to pay tribute to the 139 trustees who have served over the 35 years of Grand Charity’s existence. I am delighted to see over 20 Council members present today. Also present are three former Presidents, Sir John Welch, Raymond Lye and Grahame Elliott, who have done so much to bring about the changes you have just approved. I mention the late Iain Ross Bryce who as Deputy Grand Master started this whole process moving and was a driving force. He is greatly missed. 

Published in Speeches

Missed by many

After a short illness Iain Ross Bryce, Past Deputy Grand Master and Past Second Grand Principal, died peacefully in hospital on 30 June aged 79

Educated at Bridlington Grammar School, Iain Ross Bryce trained in accountancy, becoming a Fellow Chartered Accountant and joining Ernst & Young, where he rose to senior partner and ran the Hull office. After national service with the Royal Engineers, he enlisted in the Territorial Army, becoming colonel and earning the Territorial Decoration. 

A keen yachtsman, Iain served as treasurer, chairman and president of Bridlington Royal National Lifeboat Institution and was for many years the charity’s national treasurer. A well-known and popular figure, he was involved in many community organisations in the town and was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of the East Riding of Yorkshire. 

A lifelong friend commented: ‘He did a great deal for Bridlington, mostly behind the scenes. He had a very kind nature and many people in Bridlington have received his help, mostly without knowing it.’

In Freemasonry, Iain was active in the Province of Yorkshire, North and East Ridings, serving as Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent from 1984 to 1991. Appointed Deputy Grand Master and Second Grand Principal in 1991, he served for 13 years during which time he gave wise counsel and strong support to the ‘top to bottom’ overhaul of the administration of the Craft. He also did much to bring the masonic charities together, laying the foundations for the major changes taking place.

A big man in every sense, Iain had a great love for and enjoyment of life, but always said that he could not have achieved anything without the great support of his wife Jan and their family. 

He will be much missed by many.

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 01 July 2015 11:03

RW Bro Iain Ross Bryce 1936-2015

We regret to announce the death of RW Bro Iain Ross Bryce, TD, DL, Past Deputy Grand Master, on the afternoon of 30 June 2015.

RW Bro Bryce served as Deputy Grand Master from 1991 until 2004, and in Supreme Grand Chapter ME Comp Bryce served as Second Grand Principal from 1991 until 2005.

Published in UGLE & SGC
Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:00

Assistant Grand Master's address - December 2013

Quarterly Communication 
11 December 2013 
An address by the RW Assistant Grand Master David Williamson

Brethren, the more observant among you may have noticed that I acted as Deputy Grand Master at the last two Quarterly Communications, in September and June. However, you should not infer from the fact that you see me in this chair today, that this is a portent of what the future holds for me!

You will remember that at the June Quarterly Communication, the Pro Grand Master announced that the Grand Master had appointed VW Bro Sir David Wootton to succeed me as Assistant Grand Master. He is a man of great quality, and I wish him every success in his new role; he will be installed on 12th March next year. Thus today is my last appearance as Assistant Grand Master at Grand Lodge, and the Pro Grand Master, with the collusion of the Deputy Grand Master, has contrived to be otherwise engaged today, to permit me the extraordinary privilege of presiding over Grand Lodge, for the first and last time, for which I am deeply grateful.

By the time I retire next March, I will have served thirteen years as Assistant Grand Master, during which time I have visited every continent, for a variety of purposes; to Install District Grand Masters and Grand Inspectors, to attend landmark meetings of private lodges, and to represent the Grand Master at other Grand Lodges. Here at home, I have installed Provincial Grand Masters, attended Charity Festivals and lodges in their Provinces, and in Metropolitan London; I have always received a warm and generous welcome, for which I thank them all.

There are many other people to whom I owe personal debts of gratitude for the support and encouragement they have given me during my term of office, not least the several Rulers I have been privileged to serve under, two of whom, I am delighted to see here today, MW Bro Lord Northampton, and RW Bro Iain Bryce. I am also very grateful to so many people here at Freemasons' Hall, who have helped smooth my path with their advice and support.

Over the years I have witnessed many changes and exciting initiatives, not least the formation of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, in which I was privileged to play a part. Nine years ago, with Lord Northampton’s encouragement, I started the Universities Scheme, which now has fifty nine lodges around the country, many of which I have visited. I am proud of what those lodges are achieving, and very grateful to successive members of my organising committee for the time and effort they have devoted to promoting the Scheme.

Parallel with the growth of the Scheme, I have seen the mentoring initiative take an increasingly positive effect in making masonry meaningful to new masons and aiding overall retention. One of the biggest changes has been in the development of the way we portray ourselves to the outside world, through websites, social media, and our publications, all of which contribute to what we know as 'openness', and in helping us regain, what the Grand Master has called, 'our enviable reputation in society.' 

Finally, brethren, as I reflect on the last thirteen years, it is with all humility I can say that it has been a great honour to have had the opportunity to contribute to English Freemasonry; I have enjoyed every moment. My grateful thanks to all of you who may have made a special effort to be here today; it is wonderful to see the Grand Temple so full!

My sincere thanks too to the many masons it has been my pleasure and privilege to meet, in London, in the Provinces, and overseas. I will always remember the collective and individual encouragement you have given me over the years. Brethren, thank you all.

Published in Speeches

Burlington Lodge, No. 3975, hosted a momentous event at Bridlington in the Province of Yorkshire North & East Ridings in November, when Past Deputy Grand Master Iain Ross Bryce celebrated his 50 years as a mason.  Joining him for the event were Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, Assistant Grand Master David Williamson and Past Pro Grand Master Lord Northampton.

Thursday, 19 April 2007 13:42

Reviewing the Charities

Julian Rees on the Story of Iain Ross Bryce

Iain Ross Bryce, one of the most instantly recognisable figures in English Freemasonry, retired last year after fifteen years as Deputy Grand Master. It is probably fair to say that most Freemasons in England have either met him or heard him speak, but without doubt his lasting legacy to the United Grand Lodge is the way in which he has re-modelled and vitalised the charity system, turning it into a far sleeker, more productive organism than it was.

He was born in Bridlington Yorkshire in 1936 of parents who originated from the Argyll area. He went to school locally, afterwards doing articles to become a Chartered Accountant. In 1958, prior to National Service in 1959, he enrolled in the Territorial Army in a Royal Engineers airborne unit ‘so that I wouldn’t have to go in the Pay Corps or RAF admin.’ and qualified as a parachutist. He stayed on for another twenty years in the Territorial Army. 

In 1960 he was initiated in Burlington Lodge, No. 3975, in Bridlington. This Lodge, founded in 1919, is distinguished by its founders’ jewel being worn with a black ribbon to commemorate the fallen. He was then only twenty-four years old at a time when his father thought he was far too young, and he became Master of the Lodge at the age of thirty-three in 1969. In the same year he became a partner in his firm of Chartered Accountants. The firm was little more than a small town firm, but in time Iain became a Partner in the huge international accounting firm of Ernst and Young. 
Iain had met his future wife, Jan, some years before. They weren’t always close however, and it was only the night before he was commissioned in the army, in 1960, that they became engaged, and married in 1962. His father in law was a Freemason, so there was a great deal of masonic influence on both sides of the family. Jan has had to cope with masonic and military activities throughout their married life. ‘Wives,’ says Iain, ‘have an important part to play in bringing us down to earth.’ 

A Masonic Career

His rise in Freemasonry began when he was made Master of his mother Lodge at its fiftieth anniversary, and Brigadier Claude Fairweather, Deputy Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire North and East Ridings, was present. Years later Iain got a phone call. It was Claude Fairweather. ‘I want you to do a job,’ he said. What is it? Iain asked. ‘I’ll decide,’ was the reply, ‘will you do it?’ As a result, Iain was duly appointed Provincial Senior Grand Warden at the age of forty-one and appointed Deputy Lieutenant in Yorkshire the same year. 
From Provincial Senior Grand Warden, he became Assistant Provincial Grand Master, and then Deputy Provincial Grand Master. ‘I had only been Deputy for a quarter of an hour, when the then Provincial Grand Master, the Marquess of Zetland, announced that he wanted to retire, and wanted me to take over.’ 
Appointed Provincial Grand Master in 1984 he found the Provincial finances in a shambles, so he appointed a working qualified accountant as Treasurer. He introduced ‘open days’ for lodges, against huge opposition. For this to happen, a lot of work had to be done. Many of the lodge buildings were in a terrible state, dirty, with facilities that didn’t work. 
Many had to be re-decorated. ‘There wasn’t a shortage of money: it was a shortage of attitude. We had huge opposition from those who said “we’ve never done it”. It was easier to say no than yes. Saying yes meant that somebody had to do it.’ 
‘At this time,’ he said, ‘I introduced an eight minute limit on after dinner speeches.’ There was a pause. ‘I later wished I had made it four.’ He also introduced Master Masons conferences and the first one was a sell-out – a huge number attended. 
The idea for these conferences came when Iain and John Hamill were present at one that had been held in Northern Ireland. ‘I’m going to do that,’ he thought. ‘I was frightfully brash – I was a very young Provincial Grand Master.’ 

Royal Masonic Hospital

The then Pro Grand Master, Lord Cornwallis, asked him to chair a committee to look into the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and Sick, and to split the Royal Masonic Hospital from the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution. He was given six months to settle it, but achieved it in three. ‘If we don’t get the thing done quickly, we’ll be into the summer, and then nothing will get done,’ he remembers thinking. 
On the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and Sick, there had been a lack of balance. Iain decided on a committee of one each from the Hospital and the RMBI plus a few others, and he got the Chairmen of both the RMBI and the Hospital on his side in this decision. After a few weeks, he told the Grand Master what they were doing, and he was very supportive. The Grand Master said, ‘Will you think about what more we can do for the sick?’ 
The committee concluded, in March 1988, that the RMBI and the Royal Masonic Hospital should each raise its own funds. The Masonic Foundation for the Aged and Sick had to suspend its fund-raising, and the RMBI would have an annual festival. But in order to do more for the sick, Iain, with the then Grand Secretary Michael Higham, set about formalising the haphazard Festival System into a matrix, which now forms the base programme for the Provincial Festivals. 

Deputy Grand Master

In April of that year, Lord Cornwallis, then Pro Grand Master, took him on one side and said ‘You’re going to be Deputy Grand Master’. There was no discussion – the decision had been made, and that was that, although the actual appointment was three years away. 
Lord Cornwallis was very grateful for what the committee had done. They had been swift, but now in addition they had to decide what could be done for the sick. One problem was that the Hospital was a totally commercial enterprise, with its own Samaritan Fund under its wing. The two had to be separated, but by then the Hospital had appointed independent management consultants, so the commmittee had to stand back and wait to see what happened. 
Their conclusions therefore were that the gap between the RMBI and the MTGB had to be filled, that a new Samaritan Fund should be created, the viability of the Hospital should be considered, and the Grand Charity should be asked to review its objectives to help those not supported by the other charities. This second report was thus the embryo of the New Masonic Samaritan Fund, which was founded in 1990. 
Iain was appointed Deputy Grand Master in 1991 and later, when Lord Farnham became ill, Iain deputised for him at home and abroad. After the death of Lord Farnham, Lord Northampton became Pro Grand Master. ‘With his appointment,’ he says, ‘we went down a generation – went down ten years.’ 

Bringing Charities Together

The most tangible result of the second report is bringing all the Charities into Freemasons’ Hall – the administrative costs of the Charities in their present fractured configuration costs several million per year. Iain encouraged the Presidents of the Charities to meet together under his chairmanship. It is a testament to Iain’s skills that they got to know each other better, and when they went back to their council meetings they all knew what the other Charities were doing. Now, for the first time, they share a common responsibility. 
But the paramount benefit of the Bryce committees’ reports was the setting up of the New Masonic Samaritan Fund, with the benefits that flowed to those needing medical treatment. The ground for the setting up of the NMSF was laid on the demise of the Royal Masonic Hospital. 
Iain was also involved, with the other Rulers in Grand Lodge, in the reorganisation of the Board of General Purposes, reducing its number from sixtyplus to twelve. ‘It was,’ he recalls, ‘a little like turkeys voting for Christmas’ but it has led, under its present Chairman Anthony Wilson, to a leaner, more efficient Board 

Freemasonry in his Life

‘I feel very inadequate when trying to explain my personal feelings about Freemasonry.’ It has meant different things to him in each stage of his life, and the meaning behind the words did not at first play a great part. A knowledge of the true secrets of masonry has only come slowly over the years. All the time, without realising it, the experience improved his social skills, awareness of the problems of others and taught him to speak in public. He began to listen to what he was saying and reciting, and absorbed more of the often hidden meanings. This is a common experience. 
‘Representing United Grand Lodge of England all over the world has been a privilege, at times a heavy burden.’ He has, he thinks, that great intangible asset of Freemasonry and its life blood that is fraternity and brotherhood. ‘The phrase from the Ancient Charges “the means of conciliating true friendship among persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance” cannot better express one of the meanings of Freemasonry.’ 
He also strongly believes that Freemasonry is just as relevant today as it always was, especially as it is not a religion but multi-faith. Its relevance is more enhanced as society is becoming more violent and with few moral limitations. It is time, he believes, to engage the minds of academics and the educated to show that Freemasonry does have a purpose and an important part to play in modern society.

Wednesday, 10 March 2004 00:00

Grand Master's address - March 2004

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION
10 March 2004
AN ADDRESS BY THE MW THE GRAND MASTER HRH THE DUKE OF KENT, KG

Brethren,

I am delighted to see so many of you here this morning for this Quarterly Communication and I bid you all a very warm welcome. I thank you all for the honour you have done me by re-electing me as your Grand Master and I look forward to another busy and challenging year at the head of English Freemasonry.

I should like to start by expressing my thanks and that of the Craft to two distinguished Brethren who have just retired from high office.

RW Bro Iain Ross Bryce has been a Grand Officer for 21 years, which includes 8 years as Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Yorkshire, North and East Ridings and 12 years as Deputy Grand Master. In addition to the extensive duties attached to the offices he has held, Bro Bryce has spent a considerable amount of his time working with and co-ordinating the Masonic charities. His chairmanship of the Committee which decided the future of the Foundation for the Aged and the Sick in 1988, and of the Sick fund in 1989 which later developed into the New Masonic Samaritan Fund, was followed by his work on creating the Charity Festival matrix in 1992. More recently he chaired the Committee looking at the allocation of Grand and Provincial Ranks. He intends to remain active, you will be pleased to know, in Masonry and is currently the founding Master of Bridlington Bay Lodge, No 9778, which was consecrated in November 2003. Bro Bryce will continue in office as Second Grand Principal in the Royal Arch so his experience and advice will not be lost to us.

RW Bro Earl Cadogan has been a Grand Officer since 1969 when he served as Senior Grand Warden. His 34 years as a Grand Officer include 11 years as President of the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and the Sick, 6 years as President of the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys and 4 years as President of the Board of General Purposes. Bro Lord Cadogan first joined the Board as an appointed member as long ago as 1983. He served on the Finance Committee from then until he became its Chairman in 1991, and relinquished this office only when he became President in 1999, having also acted as Vice-President of the Board in 1991 and 1992.

The Craft owes both these Brethren an immense debt of gratitude for their hard work, which they have undertaken over so many years, and their dedication to Freemasonry. We thank them for everything they have done for us and wish them many more happy and rewarding years in Freemasonry.

Brethren, you will know that I normally attend the Craft Annual Investiture and take the opportunity of addressing Grand Lodge. This year however I shall attend the Annual Investiture of the Royal Arch on 29th April and it is my intention to address Supreme Grand Chapter. I want to take this opportunity, therefore, of dealing with some important issues which affect the Craft in particular.

It was a great pleasure for me to be able to take part in the splendid ceremonies at the Royal Albert Hall last October, setting up both the Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London. It was a magnificent occasion and reflects great credit not only on the staff of London Management who worked long hours over many months in preparation for the event, but also the volunteers of the London Grand Rank Association. We also owe a debt of gratitude to those in the Grand Secretary’s office without whose dedication and support no great occasion of Grand Lodge would be possible, and in particular to the Assistant Grand Secretary for his work on the complex changes to the Book of Constitutions. Praise is also due also to Bro John Wright who acted as overall Project Manager, and his team of Stewards under the leadership of Bro Andrew Wigram, and of course to the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies, who conducted the ceremonial activities of the day so smoothly.

It will take time for the new structure to bed down because this is the biggest change in Freemasonry for almost 200 years, but there are already welcome signs that a new spirit of co-operation and companionship is beginning to transform the newest Masonic venture into something of which we will be very proud.

The Strategic Working Party, set up by the Pro Grand Master to review the Royal Arch, has worked hard on the proposed revisions, and Grand Lodge has already taken an historic step by adding a paragraph to the “1813 Declaration.” This allows us to recognise, formally, that the Royal Arch is a separate Order of Masonry and will strengthen the status of Supreme Grand Chapter without affecting the relationship of the Royal Arch to the Craft. I know that some of you have expressed concern that this change may tend to weaken those historic ties, but I want very strongly to endorse the phrase used by the Pro Grand Master in his speech last September, when he emphasised that the Royal Arch is to remain “indissolubly linked to the Craft”. There is no compromise here, Brethren: that bond is to remain as strong and as close as ever, and the Royal Arch should be regarded by all as the important final step in pure Antient Freemasonry. I shall have more to say about the future of the Royal Arch at the Annual Investiture of Supreme Grand Chapter, but in the meantime I wish to thank all the members of the Strategic Working Party for their hard work.

Support of our Masonic charities has always been one of the Keystones of Freemasonry. It is very important, I believe, that in addition to the great Masonic causes we also reach out to the public and ensure that our charitable giving also extends as well to non-Masonic causes, which indeed is a necessary part of our duty to society. It is vital, nevertheless, that our Masonic Charities have the funds they need to fulfil their primary purpose of looking after our beneficiaries, and that is why I welcome today’s initiative to increase the contribution which we all pay to the Grand Charity.

I have been reflecting on the changes in Masonry since you honoured me 36 years ago by electing me as your Grand Master. Membership during this period has declined, it is true, from its post-war boom back to the levels seen in the interwar years. At the same time the almost obsessive secrecy of the thirty years from the 1950s onwards has been followed by a policy of increasing openness which has encouraged us to be more outward looking.

The consequence of this has been a greater desire to defend ourselves against unwarranted external attack and a willingness to correct malicious falsehoods about the Craft spread by those who do not wish to hear the truth.

The Craft has shown in recent years that it is prepared to adapt itself to the changing circumstances of modern life to a greater degree than ever before in its history. Only thus, as the Royal Arch ritual tells us, can it ‘survive the wreck of mighty empires and resist the destroying hand of time’, and I welcome the flexibility which enables us to react so positively at a time of unparalleled changes in society at large. 

Before closing, I would like as usual, to express our thanks once again to all those who make our meetings run so smoothly, the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team who have conducted today’s proceedings with their customary calm competence, and the Grand Secretary and his staff who ensure that our organisation is administered and serviced so efficiently. Finally Brethren I would like to thank all of you who have attended in such large numbers today.

Published in Speeches
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