Celebrating 300 years

Berkshire Freemasons Family Fun Day and the start of the Classic 300

Glorious weather greeted the Classic 300 cars and almost 2,000 people in Windsor Great Park on Sunday May 21st, as part of the United Grand Lodge of England's Tercentenary celebrations.

As well as the start of the Classic 300, there was a bear hunt and teddy bears picnic, a 300 mile walk to the Copper Horse, displays from over 20 charities together with the Berkshire Masonic Charity and the Masonic Charitable Foundation, a ‘time tunnel’ explaining the history of Freemasonry and the Egham Brass Band who made sure the day went with a swing.

UGLE's Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, started the Classic 300 at 2pm having first viewed the cars, talking to their owners and visiting VIPs. Oliver Lodge, Grand Director of Ceremonies, introduced HRH The Duke of Kent to the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Cllr Sayonara Luxton, Martin Peters, the Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire, Colin Hayes, Past Deputy Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire and Chairman of the organising committee for the event, and other dignitaries including Provincial Grand Masters from other Provinces and members of the Classic 300.

Over 100 classic vehicles of all types - car, motorcycles, commercial vehicles and even a six-wheeled Range Rover fire engine - turned up for the occasion and made for a spectacular sight in the sunshine, as HRH The Duke of Kent flagged them off for the start of the Classic 300, an 18 mile drive around Great Windsor Park.

Elsewhere, the 300 mile challenge for 300 people to walk one mile each to the Copper Horse along the Long Walk was easily achieved with over 400 people taking part. In fact, over 800 miles were walked as they realised that it was a mile back to the show ground as well!

The bear hunt was also a great success with many proud new owners enjoying a picnic with their TLC bears.

Martin Peters, the Provincial Grand Master of the Berkshire Freemasons, said: 'It has been a wonderful day, with a really good turnout and it is quite clear that everyone enjoyed themselves.'

Rachel Jones from the Masonic Charitable Foundation commented: 'We all very much enjoyed the event – what a fantastic way to celebrate the Tercentenary year and raise awareness of Freemasonry.'

This was the national start of the Classic 300. Over many weekend dates between now and October 1st the series continues all over the UK, with separate runs to the Isle of Man, the Lakeland Motor Museum, Thruxton Race Circuit, MFest300 in the Midlands, the Shelsley Walsh hill climb, Ashton Gate rugby and football stadium, Brands Hatch race circuit, Beaulieu Motor Museum and many more famous motoring venues. The national final will take place at Brooklands Circuit in Surrey on Sunday October 1st.

Scroll through the gallery at the top to view some of the classic vehicles on display

The District Grand Lodge of South Island, New Zealand, held their own celebrations to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of the UNITED GRAND LODGE OF ENGLAND.

After months of planning, a Lodge was set up for the day in the Assembly Hall at the distinguished Christ’s College School for Boys in Christchurch, New Zealand. Founded in 1850, the school’s historic buildings provided the perfect backdrop for the weekend’s events held on Saturday May 13th and Sunday May 14th.

The celebrations were led by the current District Grand Master Geoffrey Rowe, who welcomed representatives from the English North Island District as well as the Scottish, Irish and New Zealand Grand Lodges.

Over 100 Freemasons comprised the meeting and, after the usual formalities, the Lodge was called off to allow them to be joined by around 50 non-masonic guests who were treated to an address on the history of English Freemasonry, delivered by the District Grand Orator, W Bro Karl Moen CBE.

The evening commenced with a reception for almost 200 guests followed by a banquet in the historic Dining Hall at Christ’s College, together with an entertaining after dinner address from Rear Admiral (Ret.) Jack Steer ONZM, himself a Freemason.

A highlight of the evening was the presentation of a cheque for $10,000 to Neil Porter of the College faculty. It is understood that the money will be put towards the restoration of a stained glass window in the chapel.

On the Sunday morning passers-by were then treated to the sight of more than 50 Freemasons in full regalia parading along the streets to attend a service of thanksgiving at the school chapel, marking a truly memorable weekend to celebrate the Tercentenary.

Watch unique and unprecedented access to the Freemasons

To mark the UNITED GRAND LODGE OF ENGLAND’S Tercentenary, a Sky television crew were given unique and unprecedented access to discover what it means to be a modern-day Freemason

The five part documentary they made looked to go beyond the myth and legend to discover what it means to be a Freemason today and answer the questions – who are Freemasons and what do they do?

From our regalia to some lavish ceremonies, through to ancient rituals and bonds of brotherhood, many viewers will recently have had the pleasure of watching the documentary ‘Inside the Freemasons’.

There were many behind the scenes highlights to enjoy including coverage of the biggest day of the masonic calendar, the Annual Investiture, and the official consecration of the first masonic football lodge, as well as a feature with UGLE’s newly appointed Chief Executive Officer, Doctor David Staples, FRCP, DepGDC.

Although the documentary was recently shown on Sky 1, if you missed it, fear not, as a special edition on DVD is now available to pre-order: it consists of two DVDs, featuring all five episodes and 30 minutes of exclusive extra content.

The ‘Inside the Freemasons’ DVD will be released by June 15th and is now available to pre-order from Letchworths Shop by clicking here

Published in UGLE

Revving up for the Tercentenary

Celebration of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary year will continue this Sunday when the Masonic Classic Vehicle Club launch the Classic 300 at Windsor Great Park – the first in a series of individual classic vehicle runs

A large gathering is expected as UGLE’s current Grand Master, His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent will be in attendance and will be officially starting the event.

Fans of classic cars will certainly be in their element, with a vast array of vehicles set to be displayed on the Review Ground, a large grassed area, from 10 am before proceeding on a short symbolic run at 2:30 pm.

The Classic 300 has 18 national classic car runs taking place across England and Wales this year at famous venues including the Isle of Man’s TT, Brands Hatch and the Brooklands motor circuit in Surrey. The runs are open to Freemasons and those with an interest in Freemasonry and classic or future classic cars.

The Provincial Grand Lodge of Berkshire will also be holding a number of Tercentenary events on Sunday at Windsor Great Park including a 300 mile walk, which refers to 300 people walking one mile, and a teddy bears’ picnic. Everyone who takes part in the mile walk will receive a commemorative certificate to celebrate the Tercentenary.

Entrance to Windsor Great Park is free and parking is available for everyone.

You can find out more about the Classic 300 here

Published in More News

Stamps of approval

To commemorate the Tercentenary celebrations of United Grand Lodge of England and 300 years of English Freemasonry, we are delighted to present a set of six exclusive postage stamps

Isle of Man Post Office is celebrating the occasion with this beautiful set of postage stamps, which has been designed by Glazier Design.

Printed in gold foil, each stamp is filled with discreet symbols and architectural elements from the lodges of England, as well as GPS references to places important to Freemasonry and a subtle ribbon honouring the 50th year of office of our current Grand Master, His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent.

As an added touch, each of the stamps also contains a hidden logo only visible under UV light. Once placed under this light, the official logo of the United Grand Lodge of England  Tercentenary will appear.

The main features of each stamp though are the badges of office of the senior officers within the lodge.

The first of these is the 20p stamp which bears the jewel of the Steward, a cornucopia on a background of geometric patterns containing a bright star and concentric rings. The first class stamp illustrates the jewel of the Inner Guard, with two swords in saltire against a backdrop of Art Deco lines.

The 50p stamp depicts a stylised version of the Junior and Senior Deacons’ jewel, a dove bearing an olive branch, with the design for these taken directly from the celling of the Great Hall at Grand Lodge.

The £1.30 stamp portrays the jewel of the Junior Warden, a plumb rule on an Art Deco-inspired pattern. This is then followed by the £1.74 stamp containing the jewel of the Senior Warden, a level, with a background inspired by the windows of the Freemasons' Hall in the Isle of Man.

The last stamp in the collection is the £3.40 stamp, showcasing the jewel of the Worshipful Master, which is a square represented by an overlaid tiled pattern of right angles.

Brig Willie Shackell, Grand Secretary of the UGLE, commented: 'United Grand Lodge of England is delighted to be celebrating its Tercentenary by working with Isle of Man Post and the Province of the Isle of Man to present this unique and very special set of commemorative stamps.

'Whilst rightly proud of its 300 years of history, the United Grand Lodge of England is now looking forward to the next three centuries, which is symbolically reflected in this innovative and creative stamp issue.'

You can order this innovative set of stamps here

Published in UGLE

Highlights of today's unveiling of the memorial to Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during The Great War 1914 - 1918.

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 08 March 2017 13:16

Pro Grand Master's address - March 2017

Quarterly Communication

8 March 2017 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, it seems that we have been anticipating 2017 for longer than I care to remember and now we have arrived and I hope we have all been looking forward to our celebrations with great excitement and expectation. It is vital that these celebrations do not disappoint and, from what I have seen and heard so far and from what I know will be happening in the future, they most certainly will not disappoint.

From my point of view there was an early kick off in our District of East Africa who held a terrific celebration in Dar es Salaam last August. The District described the event as a Masonic Conference. That may well be the case, but to me it seemed like a 3-day party, superbly organised and attended by many of our Districts in Africa and elsewhere. I was also able to see the extraordinary charitable work that our brethren have carried out in that District which I am sure is mirrored elsewhere. Since then the Deputy Grand Master has been to Bombay. He can’t, of course, compare this event to Dar es Salaam, but he reports extremely favourably about it.

Between myself and the Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters we will be visiting most of our Districts or gatherings of our Districts during the year and I am quite certain that they will all make us proud that they are part of UGLE and that they will use every opportunity to advance the cause of Freemasonry in their parts of the world.

It is, of course, equally important that our Provinces take up the challenge in the same way and I am in absolutely no doubt that this will be the case. There are far too many events being organised around the country for me to start trying to highlight them. I hope it is true to say that all Provinces, who have asked for the Rulers to visit, are being visited either by the current Rulers or Past Rulers, no doubt I shall be told later if this is not the case, but we have tried very hard to ensure that we do get everywhere and I am most grateful to MW Bro Lord Northampton, PPGM and RW Bros David Williamson and George Francis PAstGMs for giving so readily of their time to help us out. We will be attending services in many of our great cathedrals and this started when the Grand Master visited Canterbury last month.

Our Provinces have been most original in their planning of events and I am sure they will all be a great success – they certainly deserve to be so with the amount of time and effort that numerous brethren have put in to the organisation. At the same time individual lodges and groups of lodges are really entering in to the spirit of the occasion.

It is not just at home that this milestone is being recognised and many of our sister Grand Lodges are celebrating with us. Indeed I was invited to the Grand Lodge of Denmark in January and they made our tercentenary very much the central theme. During their meeting they announced that our Grand Master was to become an Honorary Member of the Order of Danish Freemasons, Grand Lodge of Denmark and I had the privilege of receiving this honour on behalf of the Grand Master.

How are we going to know whether the year has been a success. It will be very easy to sit back and bask in reflected glory. This must not happen. The year is a tremendous opportunity to put all the great things that Freemasonry stands for in front of the public. We must not and will not waste this chance. The five programmes to be shown on Sky1 at 8.00pm on five consecutive Mondays commencing on April 17th, will, I believe, go a long way to displaying to the public at large what we stand for and the tremendous amount of work we put into the community both by way of financial charitable giving and by physical help to those who need it. I fear not everyone will be able to receive Sky1, but do tell all your friends about it – who knows they might ask you to come and watch it with them. Some will, no doubt, consider that we have taken a huge risk by opening ourselves up in this way, but I am in no doubt that, having been given the chance, we would have thrown away the biggest opportunity we have, perhaps, ever had for getting our story across, had we not proceeded.

In addition a further DVD has been prepared by the makers of the Documentaries for distribution – I should probably say sale – to our members and to the general public. I strongly recommend that you try to gain access to all the above.

In a perfect world at the end of the year we will see our numbers soaring and the press, printing story after story about how wonderful Freemasonry is. I am not naive enough to believe that this will be the case immediately, but I shall be very disappointed if we don’t see an increase in our membership, perhaps, just small to start with, but improving gradually as time goes on. In addition it will be fascinating to see what the press, as a whole, make of our opening our doors to such an extent.

These are exciting times brethren, let us all make the most of them.

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication

8 March 2017 
An address by VW Bro John Hamill, PGSwdB, Deputy Grand Chancellor and Diane Clements, Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry

Diane Clements: Ninety-nine years ago today, Charles Graham Robertson, a railway clerk from Dorking in Surrey, was fighting with the Royal Fusiliers on the Western Front. He realised that his position was being cut off so he sent two men to get reinforcements while he stayed at his post with one other man and a Lewis gun. He managed to kill 'large numbers of the enemy' but no reinforcements arrived and realising that he was now completely cut off he and his fellow soldier withdrew about ten yards. He stayed there for some considerable further time firing his Lewis gun but was again forced to withdraw. In this new position he climbed on top of a parapet with his comrade, mounted his gun in a shell hole and continued firing at the enemy who were pouring across the top of, and down, an adjacent trench. His comrade was killed and Robertson severely wounded but he managed to crawl back to the British line, bringing his gun with him. He could no longer fire it as he had exhausted all the ammunition. For his initiative and resource and magnificent fighting spirit which prevented the enemy making a more rapid advance, Robertson was awarded the Victoria Cross in April 1918. A few months later, after the end of the First World War, in February 1919, he was initiated in Deanery Lodge No. 3071 in London. He is one of over one hundred and seventy holders of the Victoria Cross who have been identified as freemasons, representing more than 13% of the total recipients.

John Hamill: The Victoria Cross was a product of the Crimea War. In many ways this was one of the first ‘modern wars’, reported from the battle field by newspaper journalists. The media, then as now, liked stories of heroes and villains, and it soon became apparent that there were many heroes but no award available to acknowledge the heroic actions of the ordinary British serviceman. Other European countries already had awards for their armed forces that did not discriminate according to class or rank. In 1856 with increasing public support, Queen Victoria ordered the War Office to strike a new medal which was made open to all ranks. The Victoria Cross is awarded for valour 'in the face of the enemy' to members of the British armed forces and to members of the armed forces of some Commonwealth countries and previous British Empire territories.

Many have been inspired by the stories of those such as Charles Graham Robertson but holders of the Victoria Cross were often modest men who didn’t make a fuss and many masonic researchers have worked hard to track down their masonic links, including the 2006 Prestonian lecturer, Granville Angell. Diane and I would like to acknowledge the efforts of all those researchers today.

The Victoria Cross was awarded 628 times for action in the First World War. Over 100 recipients have so far been identified as Freemasons of whom sixty-three were members of English Constitution lodges.

As many of you will know this building, now known as Freemasons’ Hall, was formally opened in 1933 as the Masonic Peace Memorial and it was, and is, a memorial to all those Freemasons who died in the First World War. Acknowledging this and as part of the Tercentenary celebrations, the United Grand Lodge is going to have a memorial pavement laid outside the Tower doors with details of all the English Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War. The date we have chosen for the ceremony is 25th April.

DC: On 25th April 1915 a battalion of over 1,000 men from the Lancashire Fusiliers landed on a beach at Gallipoli. During the landing, the men were met by very heavy and effective fire from the Ottoman Empire troops defending the beach and lost over half their number. The survivors, however, rushed up and cut the wire entanglements and managed to gain the cliffs above the beach. Amongst them were Major Cuthbert Bromley, Lance Corporal John Grimshaw, Private William Kenealy, Sergeant Alfred Richards, Sergeant Frank Stubbs and Captain Richard Willis. The courage of these six men was recognised by the award of the Victoria Cross to each of them and the event was hailed in the Press as '6 VCs before breakfast'. Three of these men were Freemasons.

Richard Willis had joined St John and St Paul Lodge No. 349 in Malta in 1901. He retired from the army in 1920 and took on an education role within the RAF before working as a teacher. Cuthbert Bromley, who had been a member of Invicta Lodge No. 2440 since 1909, was wounded during the landing and sustained further wounds over the next two months. He was evacuated to Egypt to recover and in August 1915, whilst returning to the Gallipoli peninsula aboard a troopship, he was killed when the ship was torpedoed. After the war John Grimshaw became a recruiting officer for the army. He joined Llangattock Lodge No. 2547 in 1928. Frank Stubbs died during the landing. William Kenealy was seriously wounded in a later battle on the Gallipoli peninsula and died in June 1915. As a result of a wound sustained in the action Alfred Richards had to have his leg amputated and was discharged from the army as unfit for further service. Despite this he served in the Home Guard during the Second World War.

JMH: Also as part of this year’s Tercentenary celebrations a Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire will be unveiled next month on 18th April. Since planting began in 1997, the National Memorial Arboretum has become a special place honouring those who have served, and continue to serve, our nation in many different ways. It’s not a cemetery but covers 150 acres of trees and planting, a peaceful place of remembrance. There are more than 300 dedicated memorials on the site acknowledging the personal sacrifices made by the Armed Forces, the Police, and the Fire and Rescue and Ambulance services. The idea of a Masonic Memorial Garden was the millennium project of a group of Provinces led by Staffordshire. Realising the project was not without its difficulties but, assisted by additional finance from Grand Lodge, has now been fully realised. The garden is entered between two pillars, topped with globes, leading to a squared pavement on which are two large ashlars. The Province of Staffordshire held a service in the garden on Armistice Day last year.

DC: I am sure that many of those here today are familiar with the name of Toye, Kenning and Spencer, one of the country’s oldest companies still in operation and, of course, the manufacturer of masonic regalia and the Tercentenary Jewel. The company also has a long tradition of making military decorations although not the Victoria Cross. It may not be so widely known that the grandfather of W Bro Bryan Toye, Alfred Toye, was awarded the Victoria Cross, at the age of twenty for his actions on the Western Front in March 1918 when he established a post that had been captured by the enemy, fought his way through the enemy with one other officer and six men, led a counterattack and was able to re-establish the line. Continuing his military career after the war, Brigadier Toye, as he became, joined Freemasonry in Grecia Lodge No. 1105 in Egypt in 1930.

Following the Armistice on 11th November 1918 which ended most of the actual fighting, a series of peace treaties were negotiated between the two sides. The Treaty of Versailles with Germany was signed on 28th June 1919 and it was registered by the Secretariat of the newly formed League of Nations in October that year. The First World War had led to the fall of several empires in central and eastern Europe, the first of which was the Russian Empire overthrown in an internal revolution by Lenin and the Bolsheviks in 1917 and which led to civil war. Britain and her allies got caught up in this and were forced to send a Relief Force to North Russia in June 1919. Three men were awarded the Victoria Cross during this action. One of them was Royal Navy Commander Claude Dobson who led a motor boat flotilla to the entrance of Kronstadt harbour. In his 55 foot boat he passed through heavy machine gun fire to torpedo a Russian battleship. In 1925 Dobson joined Navy Lodge No. 2612. As the action in which he was involved falls within the period of the First World War and its treaties, he will be included on the memorial.

JMH: Armistice Day in November 1920 was a day of mellow sunshine. It was the second time that the Armistice had been marked but was to be especially significant as it was on that day that the King, George V, unveiled the cenotaph in Whitehall and also the day that the Unknown Warrior was interred in Westminster Abbey. The coffin carrying the Unknown Warrior was carried into the Abbey between two lines of men, who had been awarded the Victoria Cross during the war or otherwise distinguished themselves by special valour. They were known as the 'Bodyguard of Heroes'. Sixteen of this honour guard have been identified as Freemasons.

One of them was Captain Robert Gee who had been a member of Roll Call Lodge No. 2523 in London since 1907. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 30 November 1917 in France when an attack by the enemy captured his brigade headquarters and ammunition dump. Gee, finding himself a prisoner, managed to escape and organised a party of the brigade staff with which he attacked the enemy, closely followed by two companies of infantry. He cleared the locality and established a defensive flank, then finding an enemy machine-gun still in action, with a revolver in each hand he went forward and captured the gun, killing eight of the crew. He was wounded, but would not have his wound dressed until the defence was organised.

One of the names to be marked on a paving stone outside is Eric Archibald McNair, who was initiated in Apollo University Lodge No. 357 in 1913. He was awarded the Victoria Cross at the age of just 21 in 1916. On 14 February 1916 on the Western Front in Belgium, Lieutenant McNair and a number of men were flung into the air when the enemy exploded a mine, several of them were buried. Although much shaken, the Lieutenant at once organised a party with a machine gun to man the near edge of the crater and opened rapid fire on the enemy who were advancing. They were driven back. Lieutenant McNair then ran back for reinforcements, but as the communication trench was blocked he went across open ground under heavy fire. His action undoubtedly saved a critical situation. Sadly Lieutenant McNair did not survive the war but died in August 1918. His name is amongst those included on the Roll of Honour that is been displayed at the Shrine in the vestibule outside the Grand Temple.

It seems fitting that, in this Tercentenary year, the building is adding a further memorial to those that fought in the First World War. It would also be fitting, I believe, to stand for a moment in remembrance of those sixty-three men of valour whose names will be a part of this building for so long as it shall stand.

Published in Speeches
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

Brethren, 2017 is without doubt a landmark year in the history of our great organisation. It provides a wonderful opportunity both to celebrate past achievements and to ‘lay schemes and draw designs’ to ensure its future.

I am very conscious that we are already three months into the year and that a number of celebratory events have already taken place.

I was particularly pleased to be able to attend the service at Canterbury Cathedral on 18 February, which was a marvellous celebration of our achievements, and I look forward to taking part in other events during the year.

I am impressed by the number and variety of events that are taking place in the Metropolitan area and our Provinces and Districts. I know how you have all worked and are working tirelessly to ensure that our Tercentenary year is both memorable and enjoyable.

I wish you every success in 2017 and, above all, strength and stability in the future.

Published in UGLE
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