Celebrating 300 years

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, 14 September 2016 09:37

Deputy Grand Master's address - September 2016

Quarterly Communication

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

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

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

We have now moved to ensuring the timely implementation of the strategy and the Membership Focus Group has been superseded by the Improvement Delivery Group.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Published in Speeches
Tuesday, 07 June 2016 01:00

Fraternity in the trenches

Service and sacrifice

The Battle of the Somme produced more than one million casualties. Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry Diane Clements marks the masons who fought for freedom

The centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 will be marked this summer. On that single day there were almost 60,000 British casualties, most of them before noon, of whom nearly 20,000 died. 

As the regular army had been largely destroyed by the end of 1914, the soldiers who fought on the Somme were Kitchener’s volunteer army, the best the nation had to offer, but inexperienced in battle. A few months earlier most had been working in factories, offices and fields and many had joined up with friends from their local areas. 

The offensive on the Somme was launched to support the French army and was intended to draw German manpower away from Verdun. This meant that British troops were moved south from Flanders to north-east France. 

Initially, the move was regarded as positive by the soldiers, as switching from clay to chalk soil meant they had a better chance of keeping dry. The British advance was preceded by seven days of artillery bombardment, which proved ineffective in damaging the barbed-wire barrier erected by German troops. 

By the time of the battle, the method of centrally recording masonic losses had been established. Lodge secretaries were asked to record on special Grand Lodge forms the names of brethren known to have died. These were used to compile a Roll of Honour with name, military rank and masonic rank published each year in the Masonic Year Book. Modern research, checking these names against military records, has identified at least 25 masonic casualties during the period of the battle. 

Manchester businessman Charles Campbell May was one of several Freemasons who died on the first day. Born in New Zealand, he had served six years with King Edward’s Horse (The King’s Overseas Dominions Regiment) before 1914 and then founded a volunteer unit at the outbreak of war. Charles was a member of King’s Colonials Lodge, No. 3386.

‘Coolest and bravest’

The Somme drew on the resources of the whole British Empire, and among the casualties was Eric Ayre, from Newfoundland, who was a member of Whiteway Lodge, No. 3541. His brother Bernard and cousin Wilfred were also killed. The head of a wooden gavel, now in the Library and Museum collection, was made from an abandoned German rifle by New Zealand troops, who claimed to have used it at masonic meetings on the Western Front. 

Roby Myddleton Gotch had just qualified as a solicitor when war broke out. He had joined Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, while at the University of Oxford in 1910 and later joined Nottinghamshire Lodge, No. 1434. Described as ‘one of the coolest and bravest of officers’, Roby was killed as he helped to lay a telephone wire close to some German barbed wire. 

Around 750 former pupils of the Royal Masonic School for Boys served in the war. Of these, 106 were killed, as well as six masters. In 1922, Memorials of Masonians Who Fell in the Great War was published with biographical details of each casualty. Among them was George Sutton Taylor, a fish merchant who had enlisted with the 10th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, the ‘Grimsby Chums’, in 1914. He always declined any promotion so that he could stay with the friends he had joined up with. 

‘He always declined any promotion so that he could stay with the friends he had joined up with.’

Remembering the fallen

Another Old Masonian casualty of the Somme was Cyril Young from London, a 20-year-old clerk with the Metropolitan Asylums Board. His platoon was among the first into battle on the first day. The Company Sergeant-Major wrote to Cyril’s mother soon after leaving for France in July 1915: ‘I did my utmost to dissuade him from volunteering so soon because of his youth, and he seemed such a nice chap that it made me think he probably left aching hearts behind him. Still, he was so keen on doing his little bit, as we all are, that I could not refuse him.’

Possessed of a fine swerve and a great turn of speed, Thomas Kemp had played for Manchester Rugby Union Club and Leigh Cricket Club as an amateur while pursuing a career in accountancy. When the war broke out he was working in Chile but travelled home to volunteer in the Manchester Regiment. The secretary of his lodge, Marquis of Lorne Lodge, No. 1354, was among those who sent condolences to his parents. 

In a later phase of the battle, Eugene Paul Bennett, a lieutenant in the Worcestershire Regiment, led an attack on the German trenches despite being wounded and when most of the other officers had been killed. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for saving his battalion and capturing the enemy line. On his return, Eugene became a Freemason, joining the Lodge of Felicity, No. 58, in London in 1922. 

In July 1932 the Thiepval Memorial was unveiled by the Prince of Wales. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, its arch represents the alliance of Britain and France in the offensive. The village of Thiepval had been one of the objectives of the first day of the battle, having been held by the German army since September 1914. It was finally captured by the British at the end of September 1916 and will be the focus of the centenary commemoration.

Published in Features

Crucially, and blessedly, Millennials are becoming masons

Those under thirty constitute at present only two per cent of British masons. This may seem negligible – apart from when you note they are also precisely the one age group in masonry whose numbers are growing.

Membership for people under thirty is currently on the uptick by 7.65 per cent. Contrast this with a decrease in all other age groups – just over ten per cent for people in their 40s, by seven per cent for people in their 50s, and just under ten per cent for people in their 60s.

This is a significant reprieve from a death-knell for us all. In the United Kingdom, a postwar peak pushed our numbers to over half-a-million masons.

In recent years, we are not quite half that – 228,000 in 2011, 214,000 in 2013.

And this is not the case for English Freemasonry alone. Trends have been broadly parallel across the Atlantic, where 1959 saw a height of American masonic membership at four million, buoyed by a generation of stalwart joiners home from war, then hitting a trough at half that shortly after 2000.

If we would know what the future of Freemasonry holds, we might do worse than look to Millennial masonry. What do masons in their twenties and early thirties say about what they want from their masonic experience? What in masonry do they tell us they would like to change?

I've spoken to a sample set of masons in their late twenties and early thirties, putting these two questions to them. Amongst them, they run the gamut from a Fellowcraft, newly in his first office as Inner Guard, through to two current Masters, and three past Masters, one of whom is now a lodge Secretary. They are joining masonry in some numbers – what do they, in turn, wish masonry to look like?

Millennial voices

John

John works in IT and is in his young thirties. An active London Past Master, he has earned three silver matchboxes for word-perfect ceremonies, from the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, and was just invested as a Metropolitan Grand Steward. He replies with four ways in which he would like masonry to change:

1. Later starting times. A 4pm starting time is just too early for most salaried workers. Leave days are precious, and I don't like booking days off or half-days off for masonry unless it's strictly necessary.

2. Preserve the ritual. It's at the core of what we do. It's a little hard to do this while starting later, but it is possible. I don't go to meetings to listen to minutes or Charity Steward's reports (sorry, Bro Charity Steward – try email next time).

3. Cheaper meals. This is a controversial one, as many affluent young gentlemen are looking for some really fine dining. I, alas, have found myself skipping such meals as I find it difficult to justify with our darling little financial constraint crawling around.

4. Taking it seriously. It's fine to have a laugh, but if your lodge or unit does not essentially take what they're doing seriously, I'd rather be somewhere else. 

Niall

Niall, 27, works as an investment manager, and is secretary of a London lodge, where he is also a Past Master. He says, 'One thing that keeps popping up is the dress code and meeting times. I find that interesting at least.'

Richard

Richard, 33, is a senior manager at a professional services firm. He joined Freemasonry in September, is now a Fellowcraft, and has just taken his first office as Inner Guard. He thoughtfully observes:

'I think one of the challenges with Millennials is that they may see masonry like they see Young Farmers or Conservative Future. It is for a certain type of wealthy, privately educated nerd. There are plenty of geeks out there that would enjoy Freemasonry, but have a worldview opposite or at least different to Young Farmers or Conservative Future. Then there are the festive boards – socialising with people outside of your age group is often challenging for younger people. That's not to mention the expense of dining.

'For me, I think Freemasonry offers a journey of personal discovery, something I can't find in politics or religion alone. I told my two closest friends and their responses were: 1) isn't it a bit weird all that dressing up? And 2) I guess it will be good for your career as masonry is about men getting up the greasy pole. I then had to explain brotherhood, charity, etc.

Danny

Danny, in his thirties, is a Leicestershire mason, works as a consultant, and is heavily involved with the Universities' Scheme. He calls for more of Project Streamline (late starts, cut out the unnecessary bits etc.) whilst maintaining the tenets of the Craft.

'Expanding the Universities' Scheme and light blue clubs across the country. Stronger mentorship schemes to look after and retain members. Greater openness and awareness of the public, including in the Tercentenary celebrations. Modernisation in terms of the use of electronic communication to keep lodge members up-to-date at lodge, Provincial and UGLE level. Wider awareness of what's going on outside your own lodge. And an advance in the use of social media.'

Richie

Richie, in his thirties, is a local government officer. He is a recent past master of a university scheme lodge, Honor and Generosity Lodge No.165. He wants to see more of the Universities' Scheme, multiple ceremonies, multiple candidates and get them quickly on the ladder.

Tim

Tim, 34, is a consultant in Oxford, where he finished a doctorate five years ago. He is currently master of the Apollo University Lodge No.357.

'The key with Freemasonry for younger people is to think of it as a charitable and social personal development course. To consider the three relationships it tries to encourage us to think about our relationship with our Creator, between each other, and with ourselves.'

SUMMARY 

To sum up, the masons interviewed were not in it for dining. They each, without prompting, emphasised ritual, personal and moral development, and charity.

They asked for a masonry which is adapted to working practices, as in the case of John and Niall; and one which responds to desires for individual charitable entrepreneurship.

Millennialism

The young masons which whom we've spoken display many of the most striking characteristics of Millennials – roughly those born from 1982 onwards.

This generation is so named – first, by historians William Strauss and Neil Howe in the United States – to note a demographic bump from roughly 1980 to 1990, as Baby Boomers born after the Second World War themselves produced children. And the name captures the fact that they would reach maturity from the year 2000 onward, in this brave millennium.

If they are joining masonry, it is not as yet another thread within a fabric of the establishment, and it is not – in striking difference to the hardy serial 'joiners' who returned from the Somme and Normandy to seek communal experiences at home after their demobilisation – because they very much like joining things.

In fact, it likely is rather the opposite. According to the British Social Attitudes survey, the Millennial generation is less likely than those that which before to consider themselves part of a particular religious denomination, less likely to join a political party or a trade union, and less likely to have an especially high view of the forces. Though interest in current affairs is quite strong (at two-thirds, when asked by the Hansard Society in a 2013 study of political engagement), party politics leaves Millennials cold (with one-third confessing any interest there whatsoever).

They are fiercely individualistic. Polling by YouGov shows them more likely than their elders to consider confronting social problems a responsibility of individuals, instead of the government. British Millennials especially, compared with their European neighbours of the same generation, are relaxed about social issues – same sex marriage, for one, or consumption of alcohol, tobacco, or cannabis, according to a Eurobarometer study.

They also are much more likely to have set up their own business than counterparts in any other European country. Part of this is to do with Britain – a country with high university attendance, which correlates with social liberalism, with a flexible and competitive labour market, tending towards competitiveness and individualism, and whose citizens (according to the Economist) 'chart their lives on social media with more zeal than most'.

'Detached from institutions and networked with friends,' is how the Pew Research Center describes Millennials in a study from March 2014. The millennial generation's world is digital, with 41% admitting they would rather communicate electronically than in person or by telephone. This generation's affinity with the digital world, as digital natives, seeps into what they seek from organisations – flexibility, varied and interesting experiences, regular feedback, an opportunity to keep learning.

Uncomfortable with rigid organisational structures, their paradigmatic employer is Google or Apple, or still better, the tech start-up. They value mentors from older generations, but there are hints of possible generational conflict afoot – 38% say that in the workplace, older senior management do not relate to them, 34% say their personal drive intimidates older generations, and half found their managers did not always understand they ways they used technology.

A Price Waterhouse Cooper report on Millennials at work says the global economic crisis was their formative coming-of-age experience, making them scrappy, deeply afraid of unemployment (72 per cent feeling they had made some sort of trade-off to get into work), but with personal learning and development still the most important thing they seek from employers – flexible working hours comes second, with cash bonuses in a surprising third place.

They do not especially like to join institutions, but they are joining this one. Why? Doubtless, the deeply personal engagement with moral development encouraged by the Craft – that the ritual is there, supremely evocative, but how you interpret and engage with it is utterly up to you – appeals to Millennials with a disillusion towards authoritative institutions. As does the exclusion from the masonic space of religion and politics, both discredited discourses for Millennials.

As Richard noted above, they are hardly joining Freemasonry because, having already joined Young Conservatives and Young Farmers, they wish for more of the same – going perhaps back marvelously full-circle to the organisation's Enlightenment-era origins, motivated by tolerance, free-thinking, and scepticism.

Masonry's countercultural nature in 2016 may even appeal. Conspiratorial theories hold less traction amongst Millennials, equally alongside all other received viewpoints.

Future of Freemasonry

Millennial masonry so far has thrown up its own institutions. The Connaught Club, founded in 2007 for those London-area Freemasons under 35, is one – for members of lodges which span the mix of ages, it is a novel affiliation which is cross-lodge and generational. The Universities' Scheme is another, set up in 2005, with a remit to 'establish and enhance arrangements and opportunities for undergraduates and other university members to enjoy Freemasonry.'

Masonry in universities has its own flavour – multiple-candidate ceremonies, and in many cases more than one degree worked in an evening, are the norm, as is a speedy progression into office – in both cases, in order to see new masons through as much of their masonic journey as possible within the context of a short university time.

Though our numbers are gratefully stabilising, the contraction of membership from the postwar boom will mean there is a slight excess of units, with many of the twentieth-century lodges and chapters being permitted to return warrants and charters, to permit a slightly smaller number of healthy units rather than a much larger number of units with smatterings of seven or eight members. Interestingly, says Mike Baker, the UGLE Director of Communications in an interview for this paper, compared with the state of the Craft at the consecration of the current Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street, the numbers now and then 'are not dramatically different, but the number of lodges is incredibly numerous now'.

Another trend is the repurposing of other dying units – especially the 19th century lodges that are our Victorian family silver, holders of Hallstone Jewels and slightly longer pasts. Often, this is into class lodges uniting people around particular shared interests. I owe a personal confession that in the past year I have contributed to precisely such mischief, in refounding a dying Hallstone lodge as a London book group lodge called Tivoli Libris Lodge No.2150, whose festive boards are all open to guests (including non-members and women) and which discuss a different book each occasion over pudding and port. The openness, we have found, demystifies us a bit, shows masonry off as something endearingly erudite, quirky, and welcoming, and we have had initiates from out of the guests of every meeting so far.

In a similar vein, June saw the consecration of a football lodge in Hampshire and Isle of White – which already had consecrated a cycling lodge, and a rugby lodge with the sturdy name Rugby Bastion. West Kent is making moves to form a cycling lodge as well.

Another convenient point of reference might be the Future of Freemasonry report, which UGLE commissioned in 2012. The document was largely a stock-taking exercise with the tercentenary of the UGLE – and modern masonry – beginning to lumber into view next year, in 2017. On page 29, the report – by the independent Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford – concludes 'even at the cutting edge of twenty-first century communication technologies, our need for symbolic exchanges that reinforce social bonds remain as evident as ever.'

It goes on to observe, similarly to the Millennials above, 'perhaps surprisingly, it was the younger masons who put the greatest emphasis on the rituals, seeing them as a distinct pull of Freemasonry from the beginning', all 'as the more formal rituals of British life decay'. This appeals strongly to younger members, in the way it combines enjoyable, entertaining aspects with more serious ones involving the 'transmission of moral codes' by reflection on the dramaturgical experiences and antique phrases.

There is an excellent quote there, from a mason holding a senior office in a university lodge, who says: 'The ritual is a strange, seductive thing. As an outsider you would wonder at this. As an intelligent man you would say, "This is extraordinary." And yet I see these [undergraduates] come into masonry and they love it.

'And they compete with each other in a sort of serious game. They throw in stray words in the ritual to catch each other out.'

Conclusion

What does this mean for their masonry? Cheery things, I think. The Craft is acquiring, quickly and in some numbers, a generation who show no signs of caring especially for rank, whose predilection to see masonry as a dining club (though admittedly, the best dining club) is weak, guided by a sense of moral seriousness and dissatisfaction with the answers, for the grand questions, on offer either from organised religion or political parties – questions to which their strong disposition is to answer themselves, educated, and charitably entrepreneurial.

More speculatively, others have raised the question whether Millennial masonry may produce a different and closer working relationship between UGLE and the two women's grand lodges.

For a more national perspective, I went to greater Manchester recently and shared much of this with a Provincial conference which included both younger and older masons, as well as the Provincial Grand Master. One older mason went so far as to suggest that if younger masons were less drawn by dining, perhaps masonic centres should consider converting some of their dining rooms to gyms, with free access to masons. Retaining young members who joined through the Universities' Scheme appeared as a key challenge, too – relations with London 'receiver' lodges are well established for the older university-linked lodges in the South East, but less so for, say, Northern graduates moving to the capital.

In any case, and in nearly all respects, the inclination of Millennials will be to nudge us back to where we began – a less top-heavy institution, a haven of tolerance in a partisan and angry world. And a Craft whose charitable efforts share a bit more in common with the entrepreneurial start-up culture of the tech sector, and show a bit less of what Mike Baker calls 'masonic porn', what one Millennial quoted above called 'grip'n grin' – old men, holding a very large cheque.

 

Pádraig Belton is a journalist, and secretary of London's book group lodge, Tivoli Libris Lodge No. 2150.  Its book dinners are very much open to everyone, and it raises pennies for inner London, British, and overseas literacy charities.

 

Published in Features

Pipe dream

The restoration of the Grand Temple pipe organ at Freemasons’ Hall is helping to preserve a vital piece of this Art Deco building’s history. Charles Grace tells Sarah Holmes how the project came about

With a firm grip on the scaffolding in front of him, Charles Grace takes a moment to appreciate the elevated view over the Grand Temple. Behind him, a golden wall of freshly gilded organ pipes stand caged in a rigid rig of steel rods and orderly wooden planks. 

It’s been a particularly busy year for the senior Freemason, who has been overseeing the restoration of the Grand Temple’s pipe organ. Although the work has been progressing steadily since January 2014, few masons will have noticed anything different going on at Great Queen Street. For Charles, this is a good thing. Despite the size of the project, he has gone to great lengths to make sure that the renovation work doesn’t disrupt the normal running of Freemasons’ Hall.

As a long-serving member of the Committee of General Purposes, Charles played a central role in the decision to renovate, rather than replace, the Grand Temple’s eighty-one-year-old organ. ‘It’s part of the heritage of Freemasons’ Hall, so we have a duty to protect it,’ he says. ‘This building pays tribute to more than 3,000 Freemasons who lost their lives in World War I, so it’s apt that the organ is being restored during the centenary year of that terrible conflict.’ 

The idea for restoring the organ first came about in 2009 when an inspection by the organ consultant, Ian Bell, revealed the need for extensive repairs. With most organs requiring a professional overhaul every twenty-five years, the Grand Temple’s organ had survived three times longer than that thanks to the constant temperature and humidity levels as well as its dedicated maintenance. Nevertheless, eighty years of accumulated wear threatened to irreparably damage the tonal accuracy of its pipes. 

But now, thanks to funding from the Supreme Grand Chapter’s reserves, the organ will be restored to its former glory with roughly half of the money being spent on cleaning, repairing and re-voicing the existing mechanisms, which include an astounding 2,220 pipes and forty-three stops. The remainder of the funding will be spent on mounting a new case of some four hundred pipes on the east wall of the Grand Temple. 

Rousing quality

The result of all the renovation work will be a clearer, louder sound, and a focal point from which the organist can lead the Grand Temple’s 1,700-strong congregation in song. It’s a rousing quality that the present organ peculiarly lacks.

‘This is quite an unusual design,’ explains Charles. ‘Most organs have a focal point, but the present instrument comprises two cases of pipes that shout at each other across the dais. When the Grand Temple is full and everyone’s singing lustily, it’s difficult for those in the west to hear the organ, so the new case will make a huge difference, as well as giving the Grand Temple an extra visual wow factor.’

The craftsmen undertaking the restoration are from Durham-based organ builders Harrison & Harrison – a company responsible for rebuilding and maintaining some of the UK’s most famous organs, including those at the Royal Festival Hall and Westminster Abbey. Their experience of working with traditional organs is reassuring to Charles, who is eager that the new section remains consistent with the look and sound of the original. The new pipes will be made from a tin-and-lead alloy in keeping with the design of Brother Henry Willis, who built the organ in 1933. 

‘I’d love to get a series of subscription concerts going as we’re transforming a good organ into a magnificent one.’ Charles Grace

Musical chairs

It’s an extensive undertaking for Harrison & Harrison, who also face the added challenge of working around the Grand Temple’s busy schedule of events.

‘It’s been quite a juggling act to make sure we don’t interfere with the day-to-day running of the Grand Temple,’ explains Charles. ‘We’ve relied on the occasional spare periods of time to carry out some of the work. But from mid-December, when the Temple is quietest, we’ll be able to get the bulk of the work done.’

Fortunately, much of the early work has been completed in Durham, where the existing organ and console were moved for cleaning and repairing in January. ‘It’s a vitally important part of the renovation process,’ explains Andy Scott, head voicer at Harrison & Harrison. ‘As soon as the dirt starts to build up, it can dull the pitch and sound quality of the pipes, and adds to the deterioration of the worn mechanism, causing notes to stick on or not play at all.’

The length of the pipes, as well as the material they’re constructed from, both play a fundamental role in determining their pitch – so it’s important that the correct techniques are used to clean them. 

The longer, wooden pipes, which create the deeper notes, can reach up to sixteen feet in length, and have to be vacuumed and varnished. Meanwhile, the shorter metallic pipes, which create the higher notes, and can be as short as a few inches, have to be soaked and scrubbed in soapy water. 

The pipes will then be returned to the Grand Temple and divided between chambers hidden in the opposite walls of the eastern dais. The case containing all the new pipes will be mounted on the east wall above the console, facing directly down the Grand Temple.

Like the other two cases, the new case will be decorated with the same elaborately carved Art Deco motifs and poly-resin embellishments. A grille of eighteen pipes, all gilded in gold leaf, will be visible at the front. ‘It takes three different crafts alone to build its case,’ explains Charles. ‘That’s how complex a pipe organ is. It’s more than just an instrument – it’s an actual fixture of the building.’ 

Tone control

As well as the pipes, Harrison & Harrison must also refurbish the whole mechanical structure, including the enormous wind chests that sit underneath the pipes. By driving pressurised air through the pipes, the wind chests help to produce the organ’s distinctive, multi-tonal sound. Electric blowers located underneath the Grand Temple supply the wind chests with air.

‘It takes three different crafts to build the case. That’s how complex a pipe organ is. It’s more than an instrument – it’s an actual fixture of the building.’ Charles Grace

‘Each pipe produces a single note,’ explains Charles. ‘All pipes are arranged in ranks of common sound and pitch, and when the organist wants to play a particular rank, he selects the corresponding stop. This releases air from the wind chest to a particular rank of pipes. The keys on the main console then control which pipes the air passes through.’ 

It’s a thoroughly complicated system, and one that has taken Charles hours of surfing the web and scouring YouTube videos to understand. As part of the renovation, a new electronic feature will be fitted that allows the organ to store digital recordings of the music played on the keyboard. This means that a wide range of pre-recorded music will be able to be played on the organ at the touch of a button.

It’s something that will add impact to the public tours of the Grand Temple, and is a key example of the way in which the latest renovations not only safeguard the heritage of the Freemasons’ Hall, but also enhance it.   

With all things going to plan, the restoration work is due to be completed by March 2015 and Charles hopes that the new organ will become a symbol of celebration not just for United Grand Lodge’s approaching tercentenary, but for everyone who visits the Hall. 

‘I’d love to get a series of subscription concerts going, as we’re transforming a good organ into a magnificent one – so I’d hope a few great organists would play here,’ says Charles.

In keeping with this vision, Charles hopes to establish a partnership with the Royal College of Organists to give aspiring musicians an opportunity to rehearse and perform on the Grand Temple’s amazing instrument. 

‘It’s a fantastic opportunity to open ourselves up to the public, and to get this incredible organ being played more than ever,’ says Charles. ‘We need to make the most of it.’ 

The original surround sound

A pipe organ produces music through a vast array of real pipes placed in different locations around the room, effectively making it one of the first surround sound systems. In contrast, electronic organs only simulate the sound of the pipes from a central loudspeaker. The result is noticeably flatter and lacks the true fullness of many individual pitches blending together. 

Letters for the Editor - No. Summer 2016

Exchanging notes

Sir,  

The spring issue of Freemasonry Today contained letters from two brethren asking about the specification of the splendid refurbished Willis III organ in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, London. A downloadable colour leaflet containing this is available under ‘H&H specifications’ from the website of Harrison & Harrison (www.harrisonorgans.com), the firm that carried out the work, and more information can be found online in the National Pipe Organ Register.

Carl Jackson, Grand Organist from April 2016, St Cecilia Lodge, No. 6190, London

Sir,

In the spring issue there were two letters relating to the specification of the organ at Great Queen Street. 

May I suggest they go to the National Pipe Organ Register at www.npor.org.uk, which has the details your correspondents want – although it has not been updated to the new rebuild. The site has details of thousands of organs in the UK, which can be searched for by name or postcode or reference number (Great Queen Street is N16533).

Peter Edwards, Sutton Coldfield Lodge, No. 8960, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire

 


 

Letters for the Editor - No. Spring 2016

Sir,

I would like to congratulate all those involved in the refurbishment of the pipe organ in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall and the excellent write-up in Freemasonry Today. I am 86 years of age and partially disabled. I joined the John Compton Organ Company, London as an apprentice in 1944, and trained as a voicer and tuner under John Degens, a former Walkers employee. After two years’ national service I then spent the next few years as a voicer and tuner for Nicholson of Worcester. I would very much appreciate knowing the specifications of the magnificent organ.

Doug Litchfield, Zetland Lodge, No. 1005, Gloucester, Gloucestershire

Sir,

Recent articles in Freemasonry Today about the organ refurbishment are much appreciated. Lodge organists and organists in general would, I feel sure, appreciate even more to see the full specifications, old and new: that is, names of stops to each department, list of accessories, etc, so as to get a sense of the full tonal architecture and its possibilities, past and present.

Malcolm Dilley, Warton Lodge, No. 8411, Carnforth, West Lancashire


Letters to the Editor - No. 30 Summer 2015

Grand music

Sir,

I read the articles by both Charles Grace and Ian Bell regarding the Grand Temple Willis pipe organ restoration with great interest. I am a masonic organist in the South Wales Province, where most masonic centres are furnished with electronic or digital organs.

Your articles reveal that there are two other Willis pipers in the Great Queen Street building but that they are not in working order. I visited Great Queen Street last November to play the organ for the installation ceremony of the American Lodge. The ceremony was allocated to Lodge Room No. 8 where I was horrified to find that the organ was little more than a squawk box. I looked into several of the other lodge rooms to discover similar disappointing instruments.

Whilst the Grand Temple organ restoration and necessary enhancement is to be applauded, I wish to have the Great Queen Street management reminded that if ceremony’s musical accompaniment and enhancement is really desirable, then it is absolutely necessary to encourage masonic brethren to aspire to be a lodge organist by furnishing the best tool for the purpose, and that a pillar of attainment as a lodge organist might be to eventually play the Grand Temple organ. 

Michael Hayes, Venables Llewelyn Lodge, No. 3756, Porthcawl, South Wales

Charles Grace, Project Manager for the Grand Temple organ restoration, responds:

We have recently evaluated two one-manual organs and decided on the Viscount Cadet, 10 of which are being delivered in mid May and 10 in September, funded by UGLE from the normal charges made to lodges and chapters for room hire and storage. 

The organs, which are versatile enough to be played by all masonic organists, will be installed in most of the lodge/chapter rooms. The choice of organ in No. 10, where a larger instrument is required, is under consideration.


Letters to the Editor – No. 29 Spring 2015

Direction in the Temple

Sir,

You published two letters in the last issue on the subject of the square and compasses being upside down on the organ cases in the Grand Temple. I too made enquiries of those who might know the answer, but regrettably it remains a masonic mystery. On the bright side, I can reveal that, in the same position on the new case being erected on the east wall above the organ console, there will be a Royal Arch triple tau – and I will ensure that it is the right way up!

Charles Grace, Project Coordinator, Grand Temple organ restoration

Sir,

‘The earth constantly revolving on its axis in its orbit round the sun, and Freemasonry being universally spread over its surface, it necessarily follows that the sun must always be at its meridian with respect to Freemasonry.’ 

Similarly, the square and compasses will always be the right way up with respect to Freemasonry. Given that the building was built as a memorial to those Freemasons who died in the First World War, and that some may have been from other parts of the Commonwealth, it is perhaps possible that the square and compasses was positioned accordingly.

Mark Northway, Suffield Lodge, No. 1808, Aylsham, Norfolk


Letters to the Editor - No. 28 Winter 2014

Compass and square

Sir,

I am a young Master Mason. However, in your otherwise interesting and informative account of the restoration of the pipe organ in the Grand Temple of Freemasons’ Hall, the square and compasses adorning the organ case (while beautifully gilded) are clearly upside down. Does this pertain to some ancient and mysterious side order, of which I am neither a member nor even aware, or perhaps has it just been affixed the wrong way up?

Tim Myatt, Apollo University Lodge, No. 537, Oxfordshire

Sir,

In discussion with a number of brethren in my lodge, we are curious to know why the square and compasses visible behind the left shoulder of Charles Grace are upside down. The popular view among us all is that they are positioned to face in the direction of the Great Architect, in whose glory the beautiful music that emanates from this magnificent instrument is played. None of us considers it to be an error of any kind – knowing as we do that no such fundamental mistakes are likely to have been made by those who either commissioned or made the instrument. We look forward with great interest to any information you are able to provide.

Guy R Purser, Pagham Lodge, No. 8280, Sussex

Note from the Editor

Having received several queries about the compass and square visible in the picture of the Grand Temple organ in the autumn issue of Freemasonry Today (page 29), we enquired of our best in-house historians. Unfortunately, nobody seems to know of any reason why, on the Grand Lodge organ, the square and compasses should be orientated in the opposite way to how they are normally depicted.

There was in the past a tradition among some craftsmen to incorporate a deliberate mistake as an act of humility so as not to vainly compete with the perfection of God’s creations, but we have no idea whether this was the intention in this case. We do know from an original photograph, however, that it has been that way since the organ was installed. We will be pleased to hear from readers of any theories on this mystery.

Published in Features
Thursday, 06 March 2014 00:00

A University Lodges' Ball to remember

Social highlights

Held at the end of 2013, the University Lodges’ Ball not only harks back to a bygone era of masonic tradition but also shows the modern face of Freemasonry 

Recalling a time when the masonic lodges of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge staged lavish social events, the University Lodges’ Ball, sponsored by Aerice, was held on 23 November in the glamorous surroundings of the Honourable Artillery Company’s Armoury House. Hosted by the university lodges in conjunction with Freemasons from across London, the night proved to be a glittering celebration of masonic social tradition. 

In the autumn of 2012, the Secretaries of Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, and Isaac Newton University Lodge, No. 859, Chris Noon and Alistair Townsend, both – independently – had the idea of reviving the ball tradition. ‘We used to hold balls every year or two in the nineteenth century and we realised that 2013 would be the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the greatest ball that we ever held: the Grand Ball, which was in commemoration of the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark, both of whom attended the event,’ explains Chris. 

Held by Apollo in 1863 at Christ Church, attendance at the Grand Ball was large and the catering was lavish. After World War II, however, Freemasonry followed the rest of the country into austerity and the balls fell into abeyance. Chris and Alistair decided to plan a grand event so that the masonic ball might regain its rightful place as the highlight of the social calendar.

With five hundred and fifty guests attending, the ball featured the best of British music, entertainment and hospitality, and also raised money for military charity Combat Stress and the Royal College of Surgeons. ‘We are delighted to be able to benefit from this amazing event,’ says Uta Hope, director of fundraising and communications at Combat Stress.

Friday, 06 December 2013 00:00

Higher learners

The first degrees

Through the Universities Scheme, Freemasonry is reaching a young, community-minded generation. Sophie Radice finds out what attracted five university recruits to Leicester’s Wyggeston Lodge

University is a place that encourages self-expression and personal discovery. Surely not a time when you would consider joining Freemasonry, with all its traditions and structures? Dr Andy Green of Wyggeston Lodge, No. 3448, disagrees: ‘Freemasonry is a sociable and supportive fraternity. This works very well with those just starting out on their adult lives and looking to meet a range of people with a solid moral code – it’s also a lot of fun.’

The first university lodge, Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, was founded at Oxford almost two hundred years ago, with Isaac Newton University Lodge, No. 859, following some years later at Cambridge. Since then, many thousands of young men have been introduced to Freemasonry through these two lodges, and they provided the inspiration for the Universities Scheme. Set up in 2005, the scheme establishes opportunities for undergraduates and other university members to learn about Freemasonry and to bring fresh minds and ideas into the organisation. There are now more than fifty lodges pursuing a similar course. Their membership consists of undergraduates, postgraduates, senior members of the university and alumni, ranging in age from eighteen upwards.

Wyggeston Lodge in Leicester joined the Universities Scheme in 2011 to try to revive membership numbers – in the 1950s the lodge had one hundred and twenty members and in 2010 it had dwindled to thirty-two. In the past few years, however, the lodge has initiated twelve students. Last summer, four students from the University of Leicester were part of a special meeting of the lodge, when it carried out its first ever quadruple initiation ceremony. This saw Valentin-George Tartacuta, Yusif Nelson, Peter Clarke and Peter Shandley joining the Craft.

‘It’s very exciting to see the lodge filling up with the younger generation, all of whom seem to have great ideas about the future of the lodge and what might make Freemasonry more attractive to their age group,’ says Andy, Universities Scheme Subcommitee Chairman at Wyggeston. ‘We have already made good use of social networking sites – we have a strong Facebook and Twitter presence, as well as a website with film clips of our new members talking about why they joined, and a blog. I realised that it was essential to be able to contact and attract young members through these forums. It has made the lodge communications more dynamic, because we have all had to up our game in a way.’

Provincial Assistant Grand Master Peter Kinder, who is also the Provincial Universities Scheme Liaison Officer, says: ‘We are very lucky in this area with potential next-generation Freemasons because we have three very good universities – Loughborough (with the Lodge of Science & Art), De Montfort (with Castle of Leicester Lodge) and Leicester itself. When we first went to the University of Leicester freshers’ fair three years ago, we were really surprised at the interest. So many people wanted to talk to us and asked us to explain what we were doing there. We spoke about the history of Freemasonry and if they seemed interested, we suggested that they came and had a tour of the lodge.’

Peter recalls how, at the end of the freshers’ day, the floor was filled with flyers. ‘But you couldn’t see any of the Freemasonry ones chucked away. I suppose we were a little bit more unusual than the pizza and taxi firms. We gave out seven hundred leaflets that first year and one thousand this year. We seem to be going from strength to strength.’

Learning the ropes

Peter Clarke is in his third year studying history and knew very little about the Freemasons when he came across the stand at the freshers’ fair. ‘It took me a year to think about it and by the time my second freshers’ came up, I had done a bit of research and found out about the history of the Freemasons. I thought it would be something a bit different to join and take me out of my normal social circles. I like the feeling of being part of something bigger and, as a history student, I was fascinated by tracing back the roots of Freemasonry.’

‘It’s very exciting to see the lodge filling up with the younger generation, all of whom seem to have great ideas about the future of the lodge.’ Dr Andy Green Business and finance student Jeff Zhu also came across Freemasonry for the first time at a freshers’ fair. ‘It was my second year at university; I had just split up with my girlfriend and was feeling a bit down, so I went to the freshers’ day. I come from China and I have to say that I liked the historical look of the Freemasons’ stall, but I had never heard of them before.

Many Chinese students just stick together but I really wanted the chance to branch out. I also like the values of integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. It fits in with the way I want to live my life.’ Peter Shandley, who reads law and has just finished a year studying in Germany, was taken aback when he made his first visit to Wyggeston Lodge, which holds its meeting in Leicester’s Freemasons’ Hall – a Georgian building with stunning interiors. ‘From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but when I came inside and saw the main hall I was really interested in the heritage. ­e hall was built in 1910, when this area was really booming from the textile trade, and is one of the most impressive in the country. I feel really privileged to have been initiated into this lodge because it is such a distinguished one. I have so enjoyed my experience here that I have brought someone else into the lodge. He was initiated in December.’

‘I like the feeling of being part of something bigger and, as a history student, I was fascinated by tracing back the roots of Freemasonry.’ Peter Clarke

While initially surprised by the decision to join, friends of university lodge members have been receptive to hearing about the general ethos of Freemasonry. Andrew Slater, who is in his third year reading medical biochemistry, says that he was attracted by the international aspect of Freemasonry and the fact that ‘pretty much anywhere you end up in the world you could find a Freemasons’ lodge and be welcomed there’. He also goes to other lodges in the UK and enjoys being part of the events that they hold. ‘It’s a good feeling to know you have people who will welcome you everywhere.’

Recruitment

For Andrew, joining a brotherhood that brings him together with new people is important. ‘Andy Green is so great at promoting the values of decency, charity and brotherhood that it is hard not to be enthused by him. ­there is also the feeling that as well as having a great deal to teach us, the Freemasons here are very receptive to what we have to say about the way forward to keep membership alive. I have also become friends with students from different departments that I would never have met if I hadn’t become a Freemason.’

Alex Pohl is twenty-two and has enjoyed acting in the ceremonies. ‘I’m often nervous and things never go exactly to plan but it really helps with a sense of belonging and fraternity.

I am really committed to the Freemasons – it is a lifetime thing – and I joined because I knew about the huge amount Freemasons do for charity. I also really like the modesty behind the charitable giving. It’s not something that the Freemasons make a big deal of but so much of what we are about is the desire to help others as much as we can. I really respect that, and I am excited about being a part of a new generation of Freemasons.’

‘As well as having a great deal to teach us, the Freemasons here are very receptive to what we have to say about the way forward to keep membership alive.’ Andrew Slater

Published in Universities Scheme

Having a ball

Apollo University Lodge, No. 357 (Oxford), and Isaac Newton University Lodge, No. 859 (Cambridge), invite all masons and friends to the University Lodges’ Ball on 23 November 2013 in the unique setting of Armoury House, London. This collaboration marks the 150th anniversary of the Grand Ball held by Apollo for the Prince of Wales (later Grand Master and King Edward VII), in celebration of his marriage to Alexandra of Denmark.

This year, the committee is raising money for the Supreme Grand Chapter Bicentenary Appeal and Combat Stress. For tickets and details, visit www.universitylodgesball.com

Published in Universities Scheme

The sesquicentenary University Lodges' Ball will take place on Saturday 23rd November 2013, at Armoury House, London, the headquarters of the Honourable Artillery Company

For more information and to buy your tickets, visit the University Lodges' Ball website.

About the Ball

At the first meeting of the Ball Committee, it was agreed that there were three central reasons to hold this ball. The first, simply, was to have fun - to organise a large event that could be enjoyed by friends, partners, and family, and hopefully repeated in years to come. The second was to do it for a good cause - to raise money for two very worthy charities. And the third was to resurrect and commemorate the great tradition of the masonic ball, of which can be found below.

It is hoped that this event will not only give guests an opportunity to meet and enjoy a lavish and unique celebratory evening, but will also give non-masonic guests the opportunity to learn more about Freemasonry by meeting members, asking questions, and finding out more about what we get up to!

The particulars for the event are still being confirmed, but it is possible at this stage to provide an outline. The ball will be preceded by a number of (optional) banquets, information about which can be found here. Guests will have the option to book places at these dinners once they have purchased their ball tickets.

The champagne reception will commence in the Prince Consort Rooms at 8.30, after which all guests will assemble in the Prince Consort Rooms to watch the opening ceremony at 9.15.

Once the opening ceremony has finished, Armoury House will be opened and the evening will really begin! The events programme is still being finalised, so check back soon for updates, but the night will feature:

  • Dancing - traditional ballroom dancing in the Prince Consort Rooms, and more informal throughout Armoury House
  • Live music of a variety of genres
  • Magicians, acrobats, and other visual performers

There will also be a wide selection of food and drinks available on the night, all of which is included in your ticket price, so the only time you will have to open your wallet is to donate to charity!

Frequently asked questions

Do I have to be a Freemason to buy tickets?

No! The original University Masonic Balls were the highlight of the social calendars in both Oxford and Cambridge. Now, as then, anyone can attend - so if you have always been curious about what Freemasons get up to, you now have a chance to find out...

Why are there multiple banquets beforehand?

As is the case with almost all society Balls, it would be logistically impossible to have a seated banquet for 900 guests, then have the same rooms immediately available for the evening's entertainments. Traditionally, several parallel dinners have taken place before such events (in Clubs, nearby restaurants, and even in guests' houses), which end in time for guests to come to the Ball in time for the opening ceremony.

You can view details of these banquets here, and will be able to book places at them when you buy your tickets. However, please remember that it is not compulsory to dine beforehand - a variety of food and drink will be available throughout the night at no extra cost, so guests who have not dined will certainly not go hungry!

Can I sponsor the University Lodges' Ball?

Yes! The Ball will offer numerous excellent opportunities for advertising. If you are interested in becoming one of our official sponsors, please e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to discuss possibilities.

What is the dress code?

Evening Dress. This means white tie and tails for gentlemen (although black tie and tuxedo are acceptable), and long gowns for ladies. Formal military Mess Dress and National Dress are also encouraged. To hire or buy Evening Dress, please visit our formalwear sponsor, Clermont Direct, who are kindly extending discounts to Ball guests.

History

There is a long history of Apollo and Isaac Newton University Lodges holding balls, garden parties, and other festive events at the end of the academic year at Oxford and Cambridge. The balls started early in both lodges' histories, and carried on well into the twentieth century, being considered one of the highlights of the social calendar in both universities.

The best known of these balls was the Grand Ball held by Apollo in 1863 at Christ Church to celebrate the wedding of the Prince of Wales (later Grand Master and King Edward VII) and Alexandra of Denmark, who both attended. The ball cost £2,046 (the equivalent of around £220,000 now). Luckily, half the cost was borne by the college!

Attendances were large - in 1866, 750 attended the ball and over 3,200 attended the garden party - and, as you can see from the menu from an Isaac Newton University Lodge ball in the early twentieth century (in the gallery above), the refreshments were lavish. Unfortunately, after World War II, Freemasonry became less ostentatious, and the balls fell into abeyance.

In the late autumn of 2012, the Secretaries of Apollo and INUL, Chris Noon and Alistair Townsend, met for an ale or two, having both, independently, had the idea of resurrecting the ball tradition, noting that no equivalent existed for Freemasons today. They agreed that it would be difficult to achieve for either lodge on its own, but that, if resources were combined, and the ball were to be held for masonry as a whole, it could be a success.

It was also decided that, despite the short notice, 2013 would be an auspicious year to hold the event - marking the 150th anniversary of Apollo's Grand Ball, and the 200th year of Supreme Grand Chapter (the charitable appeal of which it therefore seemed sensible to support). The obvious location was London - neutral territory - and, after considerable investigation, Armoury House was chosen, as an outstanding venue with a suitable capacity.

It remains to be seen whether this sesquicentenary ball will be a one-off, whether it will be repeated in another 150 years, or whether it will become a regular event in the Masonic calendar. It all depends on how many tickets are sold...

Published in Universities Scheme
Sunday, 30 September 2012 01:00

Land's End to John O'Groats

Follow Bro Pádraig (Paddy) Belton as he cycles from Land's End to John O'Groats in aid of the Royal London HOSPITAL'S Trauma Unit

 

You can sponsor Paddy by clicking here

 

Day 1: Land's End to Plymouth

In every respect, cycling from Land's End to John o'Groats is infinitely better than fretting about cycling from Land's End to John o'Groats.

After cycling the five miles from a delightfully bonkers couchsurfer who somewhat accidentally motorbiked around the world two months after acquiring her first motorcyle (a BMW called Thelma), I made it to the start line at 6 am clutching my tenner for the chap who takes your photograph at a sign saying John o'Groats 874 miles (for those who don't want to take any known road), or (for those preferring to cycle the wrong way) New York 3147. I opted for John o'Groats. The chap turns out to be a bit more lazy than his quarry and doesn't wake up until 10, so I found a lone security guard for the requisite pictorial evidence. I'd thought LeJog (spelt - and done - this way, it can be pronounced with a terrible French accent) would be a veritable motorway of the spandexed and charitable, but I couldn't see a soul in sight.

Fragrant Cornwall sea air and waving walkers all suggested Cornwall people very nice, but did not dissuade me from really wanting to get away from them - and Penwith House Temperence Hotel (lurking menacingly by the start line) as quickly as possible.

Cornish hills slowed but did not destroy me, and I gained Plymouth and Lodge of Fidelity No.230 in time for the festive board - where the Acting WM (a lovely chap called Alan Vangorph) saw the humour in sitting me beside him on top table in my spandex. Replying for the visitors, I noted you have certain ways you imagine your life will go, and the present image had never really suggested itself to my mind as a possible future. (For those quite taken by local differences, there was no fire - I almost typed Tweeting - but a song, after a toast to absent brethren, about meeting together again in the Grand Lodge Above. The Tyler's Toast was taken seated, with the left hand.)

I was sent off with promises to return, and a whip round for the cycle appeal and Trauma Unit. A lovely Plymouth Freemason who tweets as @Freemason_UK found me sumptuous digs for the night, with a lovely friend of his who knew the Cyberknife appeal well, having lost a father to cancer. I've been absolutely bowled over by the kind support of brethren and other friends, without which my lunatic dash through Britain would have remained firmly fixed in the realm of the subjunctive. I am a grateful Cycling Paddy, and promise to keep pedalling on.

Sunday 30 September 2012

Hullo from Cornwall - and the starting line!  (where I'm making a dinner of bananas and protein bars)

On an eleven-day cycle through Britain, it is a mathematical certainty that it will stop raining for some of it.

Persisting with this sunny theme, my spirits were lifted marvellously today before my departure by the surprise appearance of brethren from my mother lodge, Apollo University Lodge No. 357, at my send-off.  (A cunning, anonymous past master even contributed £35.70 to my appeal;  better than £3.57.) There also was a chap there  who will shortly begin working as an A&E doctor in the Royal London.  He mentioned a portable CT scanner was very much needed for patients with head and neck injuries. (Medical parlance refers to the present arrangement as the 'doughnut of death', though please try not to think about that if you find yourself there.)

This send-off (taking place in a Wren-built City church in which I'm a guildsman) concluded with this cycle ride's modest contribution to the Book of Common Prayer, the Rite of Blessing of Bicycles.  After, I sped down the aisle in a flurry of spandex to head out the recessional  - fixing the firm point of precedence that the Bicyclist, when present, precedes the Crucifer.  I only nearly wiped out once.

Thankfully (lest readers worry), I'm cushioned against such falls by my panniers. One is chocker with such mouth-watering temptations as creatine, lucozade powder, protein, and glutamine.  (This is not to mention the plasters, Compeed, chafing cream, Anadin, caffeine, Nurofen, and 'flu tablets with which I serenely contemplate Day Two.)  The other, the dressing up bag, is its more banterous sibling, home to aprons and grand lodge certificates - carefully photographed before they succumb to Cornish, Scottish, or even the less remarkable English rain.

On another Technical Footnote, before leaving I received an 8 am tutorial from a kindly neighbourhood cycle shop owner, on clipping in to clipless pedals; flush with confidence, I skipped the 9 am one, on clipping out.  (Cf, 'cushioning against falling,' above.)

My bicycle, I'm reliably informed by its previous owner, is named Herman.  Ever the pragmatist, I've been pondering deed-polling him to William - conqueror of Britain, you see - but William I only really conquered England (whereas my cycle ride secretly harbours more northerly territorial ambitions).  And though there always remain the coregnants William and Mary, I'm not wholly sure a stately, constitutional transfer of power is entirely the sport analogy I'm after.  I might continue with Herman for the moment.

I then pedalled my way to Paddington, to train to Cornwall.  Everyone, after all, said I should train before my cycle ride.

I'm really very excited to begin - kind brethren from across the country have been writing to offer me visits to their lodges and guest rooms.  And I do look forward to meeting them.  After all, anyone who would open their doors to a lunatic mad cyclist must be good fun.  Bring on the morrow, and Land's End to Plymouth!

 

PROLOGUE

Hullo everyone - and I'm very grateful to Freemasonry Today for following me as I cycle from Land's End to John O'Groats, stopping to visit a lodge along the way every night.  (my itinerary is below!)  I'm taken utterly back by the kindness of brethren who've offered me guest rooms, invitation to their lodges, and - in the case of the IPM of Dumfries Kilwinning - Hungarian goulash....

I'm cycling to raise funds for the Metropolitan Masonic Charity's appeal for the Royal London Hospital's Trauma Unit.  (I've a page for my fundraising here.)  The funds will go to purchase a portable CT scanner, so the most critically injured patients won't need to be transported down the lift to the hospital's CT scan - it can come to them.

I'm also cycling in memory of my mother - I'm arriving in John O'Groats six years after she died.  

Finally, I'm cycling to explore masonry across Great Britain, just as I've recently gone into the chair in my own lodge, the Lodge of Assistance - which readers are very welcome to come visit!  I started writing to lodges from Cornwall to Caithness just before my installation in April, and on my birthday in May I joined the local gym and began embarrassing myself in spin classes.  

In June, the spandex arrived, and it took me two hours to get up the courage to go outside in it.  I waited for nightfall.

The last few weekends, I've cycled from Oxford to London, and from London to Brighton.  Clearly, I'm an example of the dangers of watching too much of the Olympics, and getting notions.

I'll be tweeting as I pedal (and dodge lorries), on @CyclingPaddy, and writing a diary of my lunatic misadventures here on this blog.

And I'm still pondering whether or not to grow a pair of Bradley Wiggins sideburns, between now and Scotland.

Little Cycle Ride - Itinerary

1st October
Begin at Land's End.
Cycle 76.5 miles, 9.25 hours.
End in Harmony Lodge No 156, Davie Masonic Hall, North Hill, Clifton Place, Plymouth, PL4 8HU.

2nd October
Cycle 118.5 miles, 13 hours.
End in Beaufort Lodge, No 103, Freemason's Hall, 31 Park Street, Bristol, BS1 5NH.

3nd October
Cycle 90 miles, 8.5 hours.
End in Birmingham, at Athol Lodge, No 74,  Severn Street Masonic Hall, 60 Severn Street,  Birmingham B1 1QG.

4th October
Cycle 73.5 miles, 7.75 hours.
End in Britannia Mark Mason Lodge No 53, Sheffield, Tapton Hall, Shore Lane, Sheffield S10 3BU.

5th October
Cycle 66.25 miles, 6.75 hours.
End in De Grey and Ripon Lodge No 837, Ripon Masonic Hall, Water Skellgate, Ripon HG4 1BH

6th October
Cycle 60.25 miles, 6 hours.
End at Kepier Lodge 8308 who meet at Hetton-le Hole Masonic Centre,  Station Road, Hetton-le-Hole DH5 9HQ.

7th October
Cycle 82 miles, 8.5 hours
Being a Sunday, have Sunday Dinner with Immediate Past Master of Lodge Dumfries Kilwinning No 53.

8th October
Cycle 74.75 miles, 8.25 hours
End at Glasgow Star Lodge No 219, 101 Clifford Street, Glasgow, G51 1DP.

9th October
Cycle 103.25 miles, 11.5 hours
End at - to be confirmed - The Lodge of Fort William, No 43, 23 High Street, Fort William PH33 6DH.

10th October
Cycle 67.25 miles, 7.75 hours
End at St Andrew’s Chapter No 115, 5 Gordon Terrace, Inverness IV2 3HD.

11th October (Last day)
Cycle 118.75 miles, 12.5 hours
End at John O'Groat Lodge No 1333, Masonic Hall Waitside, Castletown, Thurso, Caithness, KW14 8SL.
(14 miles from John O’Groats, where I will cycle afterwards to complete my journey.)

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