Celebrating 300 years

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

In good company

Royal Alpha Lodge celebrated the Grand Master’s fifty years in the Craft at an historic occasion in Freemasons’ Hall

His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent was initiated into Royal Alpha Lodge, No. 16, on Monday, 16 December 1963 at a meeting held at the Café Royal. The then Grand Master, the Earl of Scarbrough, was his proposer and his seconder was Lord Cornwallis, Provincial Grand Master of Kent.

Although the Master was the Marquess of Zetland, it was the Assistant Grand Master, Sir Allan Adair, who took the chair for the ceremony. Adair was both a famous soldier and a well-known mason; not only had he heroically commanded the 4th Guards Armoured Division in World War II, he also went on to become Deputy Grand Master.

Fifty years on, members celebrated the anniversary at the December 2013 installation meeting of Royal Alpha Lodge. Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes presented His Royal Highness with a framed collage of pictures of past royal Grand Masters surrounding a picture of the current Grand Master. The Pro Grand Master pointed out that Earl Cadogan, who was present when he was Viscount Chelsea, had acted as Junior Deacon at the ceremony. Also in attendance was Sir John Welch whose father had also been present on that day.

The meeting was held in the Grand Secretary’s Lodge Room at Freemasons’ Hall, followed by dinner at Lincoln’s Inn, where His Royal Highness is the Royal Bencher. The members were delighted that the Grand Master was able to attend his lodge on this historic occasion and his health was drunk with much enthusiasm.

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 04 October 2011 12:27

Working as a team

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes examines the strategic plans for the Craft and its charitable endeavours

The past year has been a busy time for the Craft. I have selected one or two examples to give you a flavour of what I mean. On the ceremonial side, the Rulers have installed five new Provincial Grand Masters and a Grand Inspector. In addition there have been six installations of Grand Superintendents in the Royal Arch. I had the pleasure of presenting two medals for the Grand Master’s Order of Service to Freemasonry to both brothers Sir John Welch and Simon Waley. And with the Grand Lodge team, of consecrating the new Grand Lodge of Monaco. It was a marvellous success and was extremely good for international relations.

On the business side, I met all the Provincial Grand Masters at my Regional Business meetings and attended the eighth regional conference of District Grand Masters of the Caribbean and Western Atlantic. Additionally, we successfully ran, for the second year, a business meeting specifically for District Grand Masters and Grand Inspectors before the annual investitures.

Regarding communication, I spoke about this at the September Quarterly Communication explaining how the strategic plans supported our open approach. I took the opportunity to encourage members to talk about their masonry as appropriate and I have recently set up a working party to look closely at how best to mentor at lodge level. You also now have the newly designed issue of Freemasonry Today. The magazine will continue to evolve and the key reason for this is to encourage you and your families to enjoy it and to talk more about Freemasonry. You have heard from the President about the timing for the publication of future issues.

On the charitable side, we had a very timely talk from the head of the Disaster Management at the British Red Cross at the March Quarterly Communication. Timely because of the plight of our brethren in Christchurch: New Zealand with the earthquakes, and in Rio de Janeiro, with the devastation after the mud slides. We gave generously through the Red Cross.

I am sure that Father Jonathan Baker’s resignation from his Lodges and Chapters was read with great sadness by all masons and many non-masons. This was as a result of tremendous outside pressures brought on him after his appointment as Bishop of Ebbsffeet. For the time being I shall just say that our feelings on this subject have been made. With the exception of the last item that I have mentioned, we have had a good year and the Craft is in good heart.

This is an excerpt from the MW Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes' Quarterly Communication address, given on 8 June 2011. To read the speech in full, click here.

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 08 June 2011 21:46

Pro Grand Master's address - June 2011

Quarterly Communication 
8 June 2011
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,

It is very good to see such a good attendance here today and I particularly want to welcome those Master Masons who are attending Quarterly Communication for the first time and I hope this experiment may turn into normal practice.  I trust it will be a memorable occasion for you.  

The past year has been a busy time for the Craft.  I have selected one or two examples to give you a flavour of what I mean. On the ceremonial side, the Rulers have installed five new Provincial Grand Masters and a Grand Inspector.  In addition there have been six Installations of Grand Superintendents in the Royal Arch.  I had the pleasure of presenting two medals for the Grand Master’s Order of Service to Freemasonry to both Brothers Sir John Welch and Simon Waley.  And with the Grand Lodge team, of consecrating the new Grand Lodge of Monaco. The consecration was a marvellous success and was extremely good for international relations.

On the business side, I met all the Provincial Grand Masters at my Regional Business meetings and attended the eighth regional conference of District Grand Masters of the Caribbean and Western Atlantic.  Additionally, we successfully ran, for the second year running, a business meeting specifically for District Grand Masters and Grand Inspectors before the Annual Investitures.

Regarding communication, I spoke about this at the September Quarterly Communication explaining how the strategic communication plans supported our open approach. I took the opportunity to encourage members to talk about their Masonry as appropriate and I have recently set up a working party to look closely at how best to mentor at Lodge level.  You will have also recently received the newly designed issue of Freemasonry Today.  The magazine will continue to evolve and the key reason for this is to encourage you and your families to enjoy it and to talk more about Freemasonry. You have heard from the President about the timing for the publication of future issues.

On the charitable side, we had a very timely talk from the head of the Disaster Management at the British Red Cross at the March Quarterly Communication.  Timely because of, for example, the plight of our Brethren in Christchurch New Zealand with the earthquakes and in Rio de Janeiro, with the devastation after the mud slides. We gave generously through the Red Cross.

Brethren, I am sure that Father Jonathan Baker’s resignation from his Lodges and Chapters was read with great sadness by all masons and many non-masons. This was as a result of tremendous outside pressures brought on him after his appointment as Bishop of Ebbsfleet.  For the time being I shall just say that our feelings on this subject have been made.

Brethren, with the exception of the last item that I have mentioned, we have had a good year and the Craft is in good heart. It only remains for me to wish you all a most enjoyable summer.

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication

9 June 2010
Order of Service to Masonry citation for RW Bro Sir John Welch, Bt, PSGW

Bro John Welch was made a Mason in January 1955, at the age of 21, in Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, Oxford. In 1962 he joined Westminster and Keystone Lodge, No. 10 (London) and became its Master in 1968. He is or has been a member of four other Lodges, including Jubilee Masters’ Lodge, No. 2712 (London), and has served as Master of each of them. He was exalted into the Royal Arch in Westminster and Keystone Chapter, No. 10 in 1964, serving as its First Principal in 1971.

Bro Welch was elected and served as Grand Treasurer in 1979, in which capacity he was also ex officio a member of the Board of General Purposes. In 1982 he joined the Council of the Grand Charity as one of the members appointed by the MW The Grand Master and in 1985 succeeded the late Bro Sir John Stebbings as President of the Grand Charity, continuing in that office until 1995, when he was appointed Junior Grand Warden (having held that past rank since 1992). He later served two years as Senior Grand Warden, in 1998 and 1999. In the Royal Arch having been Grand Treasurer concurrently with the Craft in 1979, he held the office of Grand Scribe Nehemiah in 1989.

Sir John is the second in his family to have played a significant part in the charitable activities of the Craft, for his father, RW Bro Sir Cullum Welch was President of the Board of Benevolence (the predecessor of the Grand Charity) for 19 years from 1954 to 1973. Sir John has not, however, confined himself to the field of Masonic charity. He again became an ex officio member of the Board of General Purposes when he was appointed President of the Grand Charity and took an active interest in the affairs of the Board, making a very considerable contribution to its various Committees. In particular he was Chairman of its External Relations Committee from 1997. When the Board was reorganised in 1999 he remained a member and continued to give the Board and the Craft as a whole the benefit of his wise counsel and extensive Masonic experience until 2005. It is gratifying to know that he is active enough to continue to be able to give us the benefit of that counsel and experience for many years to come.

Published in Speeches

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