'Still yet more of our yesterdays' - Graham Redman and John Hamill

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION
12 December 2012
A speech by VW Bro Graham Redman, Assistant Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill

GFR:  MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, a year ago we left the Antients or Atholl Grand Lodge on the receiving end of a stiff letter of complaint from the Moderns Grand Lodge at the lack of progress towards a .  The Minutes of the Antients for March 1812, record:

Ordered that six hundred pounds three Percent Consolidated Bank Annuities be purchased in the names of the Trustees, viz. R. Bros. Thomas Harper, James Agar, William  Comerford Clarkson and James Perry Esq. in trust for the Charity funds of the Grand Lodge.

Ordered that the Masters and Wardens of the Lodges in and adjacent to London and Westminster do and shall forthwith make out and deliver to the Secretary a list of all and every of the Past Masters entitled to sit and vote in Grand Lodge, with the dates when they respectively served the office of Master and that a printed circular letter be issued for such return and to be filled and returned in thereon.

JMH:  MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, six hundred pounds was a significant amount, with a purchasing power today of almost twenty one thousand pounds. The reason for the census of Past Masters was a result of the argument between the negotiators for the of the two Grand Lodges over the future composition of the United Grand Lodge. Under the Antients Grand Lodge subscribing Past Masters remained members of the Grand Lodge but in the premier Grand Lodge only the actual Masters were entitled to attend. Those who were present here last year might remember that the premier Grand Lodge’s only reason for being against including Past Masters in the membership of Grand Lodge was the rather trivial one that their Hall would not be big enough if they all turned up!
     
GFR:  At the same meeting a memorial from the Committee of the Masonic Institution for Cloathing and Educating the Sons of Deceased and Indigent Freemasons was received and read, as a result of which it was:

resolved and ordered That from and after the date hereof, every Lodge in and adjacent to London and Westminster upon the register of every newly made Mason, shall contribute and pay the sum of Five Shillings and every Country, Foreign and Military Lodge shall in like manner pay Two Shillings and Sixpence which sums shall go in aid of the Institution for cloathing and educating the Sons of indigent Freemasons.”

It is also resolved and ordered “That from and after the 5th of September next, no person shall be admitted into Masonry, in any warranted Lodge under this constitution for a less sum than Three Guineas, to be paid upon his initiation” under a penalty of forfeiture of the Warrant, in any Lodge so trespassing.

JMH: Placing a levy on their members to finance their Boys’ Charity was not a new concept for the Antients. Grand Lodge dues had not then been invented but from its earliest days the Antients Grand Lodge had required its lodges to make a quarterly payment of six pence for each of the members appearing on their returns, which went into their Fund of Benevolence. The sole income of the Grand Lodge itself came from registration fees for new members and those joining additional lodges and fees for warrants and dispensations.

Three guineas might not seem a large amount for the initiation fee, the modern equivalent would be about one hundred and seven pounds. When one realises, however, that a good craftsman or tradesman in early nineteenth century London would only be earning about one pound per week and that the average lodge annual subscription at that time was one guinea, we are given a different perspective. How many potential candidates today would be happy to pay three weeks salary for their initiation fee and one weeks salary as their annual Lodge subscription?
    
GFR:  At the June meeting

The Deputy Grand Master reported that in conformity with the directions of the Grand Lodge, the number of Past Masters had been collected from the returns of the respective Lodges and a list had been handed to the Secretary of the Masons under the Prince Regent prior to their general meeting in April last with the following letter, but that no communication had been received thereon.

Sir,
    In conformity with the wishes of the Committee of Masons under H.R.H. the Prince Regent, the utmost pains have been taken to ascertain the number of Past Masters, who claim the right of seats in the Grand Lodge under His Grace. the Duke of Atholl, and from the best sources of information that could be obtained. I have the honor to subjoin a statement  of the utmost number who can be considered at this time entitled to that privilege.

Permit me to observe that upon no occasion has it ever been known for more than one third of the number of the number (i.e. Past Masters) to give their attendance at the Grand Lodge at any one time.

As I am not aware that any Return has yet been made to the Committee under His Grace the Duke of Atholl of the numbers in the representation of the Grand Lodge under the Prince Regent, allow me to say I shall be happy to receive it at your earliest convenience.

    I have the Honor to be Sir
        Your very obedient Servant
                Edwards Harper D.G.S.

JMH: The statistics provided by the Antients were as follows:

    Grand Officers Present and Past    16
    Masters and Wardens (49 Lodges)  147
    Past Masters of the foregoing         375
                                                      538

Considering that the Antients had lodges throughout England and Wales as well as many lodges in the colonies, it would appear that they restricted attendance at their Grand Lodge to Masters and Past Masters of London lodges. Many of their official pronouncements include a statement that they were issued by “we the Grand Officers and Masters and Past Masters of the Lodges in the Cities of London and Westminster in Grand Lodge assembled…”. Forty nine was the number of lodges under the Antients in the London area.

GFR:  In another place – as they say – at the Quarterly Communication of the Premier or Moderns Grand Lodge in February of that year:

The Grand Treasurer acquainted the Grand Lodge that he considered it desirable for the Society to make a purchase of the house adjoining to the Tavern and that he had reason to believe such purchase might be made on fair and equitable terms together with certain small premises adjoining thereto which it might be very desirable for the Society to possess, whereupon, on a motion duly made it was

    Resolved that the Grand Treasurer be authorised to treat for such purchase under the sanction of the Hall Committee and to conclude the same and under that sanction to raise such sum of money, by mortgage or otherwise, as may be necessary for the completion of the purchase.

The Earl of Moira A.G.M. acquainted the Grand Lodge, that in consequence of the death of Admiral Sir Peter Parker Bart. His Royal Highness the Grand Master had been pleased to appoint His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex to be Deputy Grand Master which communication was received by the Grand Lodge with every sentiment of respect and approbation.

JMH: The property was acquired and after the was radically adapted by the first Grand Superintendent, the noted architect Sir John Soane, to provide additional lodge meeting facilities. Sadly Soane’s work only survives in his plans and drawings as his extension to the original Hall disappeared during the building of the second Hall in Great Queen Street in the 1860s.

Admiral Sir Peter Parker had been a very popular Deputy Grand Master, an office he had held since 1787, although as commander of the fleet in the West Indies and Caribbean he was often absent from England fighting the French. The choice of His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex as his successor was, history has shown, a master stroke of dynastic planning. As we shall hear in a few moments, the Earl of Moira who had been the Prince Regent’s Masonic right hand since 1790, was soon to depart for India, and the Prince of Wales, having become Prince Regent, was planning to retire from the Grand Mastership so new leadership would be required. The Duke of Sussex had proved himself an enthusiastic Freemason and was to prove a perfect example of the right man being appointed at the right time.  

GFR:  At the April Communication of the Grand Lodge :

The Grand Secretary laid before the Grand Lodge letters he had received from the Provincial Grand Lodge of York complaining that the Lodges in that Province did not correspond and remit their Contributions for the Grand Lodge in London through the medium of the Provincial Grand Lodge by reason of which the dignity and consequence of the Provincial Grand Lodge was not sufficiently supported and therefore requesting the interference of the Grand Lodge on the subject. Whereupon after mature deliberation the Grand Lodge declared its opinion that the request of the Provincial Grand Lodge at York cannot be complied with, as such a proceeding would tend to lessen the authority and superintendance of the Grand Lodge over the subordinate Lodges. And the Acting Grand Master undertook to write to the Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire on the subject.

On a motion made by Brother Thomas Brand Esq. and seconded by Brother the Revd. Dr. Coghlan it was
    Resolved that a Grand Organist be appointed to perform on the organ in the hall at the meetings of the Grand Lodge who shall be entitled to wear a Blue Apron and to have a seat in the Grand Lodge. And that the Grand Master be requested to nominate a fit person accordingly.

JMH: The complaint from the Provincial Grand Lodge at York might seem strange to us but is a perfect demonstration of the maxim that historians should look at the past through the eyes of the past and not the eyes of today. Although Provincial Grand Masters appeared as early as 1725 Provincial Grand Lodges as we know them today were a product of the new administrative arrangements after the in 1813. Under the premier Grand Lodge, as today, Provincial Grand Masters were appointed by the Grand Master as his personal representatives within their designated areas. They often appointed a Deputy and a Secretary and were empowered by the Book of Constitutions to appoint Grand Officers pro tempore to assist them on ceremonial occasions such as the constitution of new Lodges, laying of foundation stones and public processions, but Provincial Grand Ranks as we know them came after the .

Indeed, there was ambiguity as to the ranking of Provincial Grand Masters under the Moderns. The minutes of each of their meetings begin with a list of those present in order of seniority. On every occasion the Provincial Grand Masters who attended were listed after the actual Grand Wardens and any Past Grand Wardens who attended. For many years I was puzzled by the fact that the ubiquitous Thomas Dunckerley, who had been Provincial Grand Master for nine Provinces was in 1786 appointed a Past Senior Grand Warden, the first occasion on which a Past Rank was conferred other than the rank of Past Grand Master being conferred on Royal brethren. It was only recently discovered that he had actively sought the rank because he was about to give up his then charges and would no longer qualify to attend Grand Lodge as only the actual Provincial Grand Masters were so qualified.

GFR:  At the Grand Feast, held that year in May:

The Grand Lodge having resolved, that a Grand Organist should be appointed, the Grand Master was pleased to appoint Mr Samuel Wesley to that office.

JMH: Samuel Wesley was the son of Charles and nephew of John Wesley, the founders of Methodism. A major composer of his day, called by some the English Mozart, he had been initiated in the Lodge of Antiquity (now) No. 2 in 1788. He was to be Grand Organist from 1812 until 1818 but, sadly, appears to  have left no Masonic music. Today he is greatly overshadowed by his son Samuel Sebastian Wesley, one of the great church composer and cathedral organists of the nineteenth century.  

GFR:    In November the Deputy Grand Master, His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, reported on a Special Meeting of Grand Officers held earlier in that month at his instigation at which:

The Grand Treasurer acquainted that Committee that he [that] morning had [had] the honor of an interview with His Royal Highness the Deputy Grand Master who had desired him to express to the Committee His Royal Highness’s regret at being prevented by severe indisposition from attending this meeting that His Royal Highness had ordered the Committee to be summoned for the purpose of taking into consideration the mode of paying some mark of respect to The Earl of Moira A.G.M. (to whose kind care and exertions the Craft is so greatly indebted for its present highly respectable and flourishing state) previous to His Lordship’s expected departure from England and that His Royal Highness was of opinion it would be proper to invite His Lordship to partake of a dinner with the Craft…

That Committee had then Resolved unanimously that a Masonic Dinner at which the Duke of Sussex should preside be given to Lord Moira, to which the members of the Craft generally should be invited, and a further Committee was appointed to oversee the arrangements.

And the Grand Lodge having expressed its approbation of the proceedings of the Committee it was

Resolved unanimously that at the dinner of the Grand Lodge to be given to The Right Honorable The Earl of Moira A.G.M. on the 13th day of January next a Masonic Jewel of a value not less than 500 Guineas be presented to His Lordship in token of the high sense which the Craft at large entertain of His Lordship’s most valuable services to the Society from the year 1790 to the present time, and of the Brotherly affection they bear him

Resolved unanimously that the several Lodges be invited to contribute towards this expense in order that every member of the Craft may have an opportunity of testifying his regard, individually to the M.W. Acting Grand Master.

JMH:  Lord Moira had been appointed Governor and Commander in Chief at Bengal, where he was to remain for ten years. He broke his journey to India with a brief sojourn in Mauritius, where with Masonic ceremonies he laid the foundation stone of the new Roman Catholic cathedral.

Moira had been Acting, or as we would say Pro, Grand Master since 1790 and had steered the Moderns through a difficult period, not least the possibility of the Craft being proscribed under the 1799 Unlawful Societies Act. Calling for five hundred guineas to purchase a jewel to mark his long service was extraordinarily generous, in modern purchasing power it equated to just under eighteen thousand pounds. The dinner held on 27 January 1813 was indeed a gala occasion attended by Their Royal Highnesses the Dukes of Sussex, York, Clarence, Kent, Cumberland and Gloucester, the Deputy Grand Master of Scotland and a representative of the King of Sweden. The presentation was magnificent. The jewel, surrounded by brilliants, carried the Acting Grand Masters’ emblem and was suspended from what was described as “a collar of three feet long, composed of seven rows of fine Maltese chain, intersected by five parallelograms with brilliant centres”. It was made by Brother J. C. Burckhardt of the Lodge of Antiquity. The jewel is now in the Museum in this building but the collar was eventually broken up into necklaces for Moira’s female descendant. The final cost was six hundred and seventy pounds, just over twenty two thousand five hundred pounds today!
       
GFR:  1912 seems to have been a rather uneventful year.  Leaving aside a spate of Appeals and the investiture of a new Assistant Grand Secretary, the only item which catches the eye  – and catches it spectacularly – was in March of that year when the Pro Grand Master stated:

I regret that I feel obliged to disallow the motion standing in the name of the V.W. Brother the President of the Board of General Purposes. It is a proposal to alter the established custom in the matter of appointments and precedence and therefore affects the prerogative of the Grand Master.

JMH: Strong words indeed, and stronger were to follow for the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, was not known for his diplomatic skills! To challenge the President in Grand Lodge, apparently without any warning, was unprecedented.. The motion concerned the precedence of Lodge officers, something not then governed by the Book of Constitutions. Ampthill claimed that the motion interfered in the prerogatives of the Grand Master, had the Grand Registrar been asked he might have had a contrary view! Wisely the President withdrew the motion and the matter was not raised again. Lord Ampthill, however, began almost a crusade to have the whole administration of the Craft examined and revised. But that, as they say, is a story for another day.

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