Watch unique and unprecedented access to the Freemasons
To mark the Tercentenary of the founding of the Premier Grand Lodge, a Sky television crew were given unique and unprecedented access to discover what it means to be a modern-day Freemason
The five part documentary they made looked to go beyond the myth and legend and answer the questions – who are Freemasons and what do they do?
From our regalia to some lavish ceremonies, through to ancient rituals and bonds of brotherhood, there were many behind the scenes highlights to enjoy. This also included coverage of the biggest day of the masonic calendar, the Annual Investiture, the official consecration of the first masonic football lodge and a feature with Doctor David Staples, FRCP, DepGDC, who has recently been appointed as the United Grand Lodge of England's Chief Executive.
A special edition DVD is now available to buy, consisting of two DVDs which features all five episodes and 30 minutes of exclusive extra content.
You can buy the ‘Inside the Freemasons’ DVD from Letchworths Shop by clicking here
14 June 2017
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, as we approach the 24th June 2017, the actual date of our Tercentenary Anniversary, it is very fitting that at this meeting we look back on our history with pride. John Hamill, in his inimitable style, has reminded us of the debt we owe to the Time Immemorial Lodges whose foresight set us on our current path and the Grand Master will be unveiling a plaque recognising this next week. Whilst mentioning the Grand Master it is fitting to remember the debt we owe him and recognise that today is 50 years to the day since he was elected as our Grand Master. How fortunate we have been.
We also congratulate W Bro Cyril McGibbon whose 105th birthday it is today. He still attends every meeting, rather appropriately, of Lodge of Perseverance No. 155 and recently proposed the toast to the ladies at their last ladies’ evening.
On the 18th April we remembered all our brethren who have fallen since 1945 in the service of their country by opening the Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum and, a week later, in the presence of the Grand Master, we remembered with pride those of our brethren awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War in a magnificent ceremony outside the Tower Entrance to Freemasons’ Hall. For those unable to witness that event a DVD has been produced, the proceeds of which will be donated to the VC and GC Association.
And so, as we look back with pride, we must look forward with confidence, recognising that we are a real force for good in society and have so much to contribute to it. The Sky TV programme has given us an amazing platform and viewing figures have been good. The series has been well received and our Provinces are reporting a real upsurge of interest which I know you are capitalising on in order to secure our future. In addition, brethren, I believe it has enabled us to be aware of how important it is to talk openly about our Freemasonry and, perhaps, even how best to do so. For those without Sky TV, a DVD has been produced which is available in the Letchworth’s shop as from today.
Brethren, as Pro Grand Master, it is very encouraging, yet humbling, to witness just how much effort you are all putting in to promoting our masonic values and making this Tercentenary year such a tremendous success. I congratulate you all. Your charitable giving never ceases to amaze me and, at the recent Sussex Festival for the Grand Charity, a magnificent total of £3,617,437 was raised. This has been followed by the West Yorkshire Festival for the RMBI, which raised £3,300,300. These are fantastic results and, brethren, I now have firm figures which show that last year we not only supported our own brethren with over £15 million in grants, but helped non-masonic charities with grants in excess of £17 million.
Brethren, this year the nation has been rocked by a number of serious terrorist attacks at Westminster Bridge, the Manchester Arena and at London Bridge. You should be aware that we have received numerous letters of support and concern from other Sovereign Grand Lodges around the world, some enclosing generous cheques to the East Lancashire Fund which have supplemented the extreme generosity shown by many towards this fund and I have been assured by the PGM that the money will be spent wisely where need is identified. Thank you so much.
Brethren, whilst congratulating you on all your efforts, I must pay tribute to my fellow Rulers who have been globe-trotting on our behalf. The Deputy Grand Master has paid a second visit to India this year, this time to attend the District of Northern India’s Tercentenary celebrations having previously been to Bombay and then followed this by attending a Regional Conference in Jamaica. The Assistant Grand Master, as President of the Universities’ Scheme, invaded South Africa with a very strong team. He followed this, immediately after our Grand Investiture, with a gala lunch and banner dedication in Malta. As a past Ruler, David Williamson kindly represented us in Gibraltar and just to show that I have not been sitting idly by, I have just returned from a most enjoyable visit to our District in The Eastern Archipelago having previously visited Bermuda for the bicentenary of their Lodge of Loyalty.
Carrying out these visits is a great privilege and our brethren in the District really value our presence and have great pride in being members of the oldest Grand Lodge. Their hospitality is most generous as they try to kill us with their kindness. Sleep is rarely on the agenda.
Brethren, many of you here today, in fact I would say the majority of you, are wearing the Tercentenary jewel and I have been impressed by the take-up of them, particularly in the Districts. Now that we have overcome the supply problem I hope you will encourage members of your lodges to acquire one if they have not already done so.
That brings me neatly on to the subject of the very fine Tercentenary Master’s collar ornament. Many Masters’ collars display the 250th or 275th jewel and as from 24th June, surely the 300th would be more appropriate and if lodges are not displaying any jewel then surely now is the time to show pride in having reached this landmark. It is a very fine silver gilt ornament and whilst I have one here, the best way for you to see it is to acquire one for your lodge.
Finally, brethren, at this meeting, I normally tell you to enjoy the summer break and come back refreshed which, of course, I hope you will. But, the number of events between now and September is staggering. May I suggest that you enjoy them and use them to reinvigorate our lodges. I feel immensely proud to be leading such a vibrant organisation at this time.
Thank you all.
Peak Time Viewing
With a new documentary series revealing the workings of the Craft, Edwin Smith talks to Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes about why this is the perfect opportunity for Freemasonry
For certain members of the general public a misconception persists that Freemasonry is a mysterious organisation shrouded in secrecy. A Sky 1 five-part television documentary series that debuted on 17 April is hoping to finally put these rumours to bed.
Coinciding with the celebration of the Craft’s 300-year anniversary, the timing of Inside The Freemasons could not have been better. ‘We’ve targeted the Tercentenary as a catalyst to being as open as we possibly can,’ says Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, adding that the decision to let the cameras in does not signify a major shift in philosophy. ‘I actually don’t think our openness is anything new. What is new is the way we’re going about it.’
The series meets members of the Craft at every level, from the Pro Grand Master to James Wootton, a Bedfordshire farmer preparing to take the First Degree under the watchful eye of his father in the first of the five episodes. The second and third episodes follow the fortunes of an Entered Apprentice and a Fellow Craft Freemason undertaking the Second and Third Degrees. After an introduction to Freemasonry in the first episode, each programme takes a theme, exploring masonic charity, brotherhood, myths and the future of the Craft.
BEHIND THE SCENES
It took a year of discussion before the project got off the ground, with the episodes then taking a further year in the making, explains Emma Read, executive producer and managing director of Emporium Productions, the company behind the documentary series.
‘These things always take a long time because everyone’s got to be comfortable [with the process]. But once we started, everyone was 100 per cent committed,’ says Read, who was also responsible for 2013’s Harrow: A Very British School documentary series and has made over 1,000 hours of factual television for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and Discovery.
Read believes that UGLE felt comfortable working with Emporium and Sky because they specialise in getting access to institutions and individuals who have a reputation to protect, but about whom there are misconceptions.
‘The way that we make programmes with people is to explain that we are not here to express our opinion – this is not investigative, this is not current affairs, this is a proper documentary where we show people and places as they are,’ explains Read. ‘We film people going about their various activities and they then tell the story themselves. It could also have been called “The Freemasons in their Own Words”. It’s that kind of approach.’
With two small teams carrying out the filming, recording for hundreds of days in total, Lowndes was impressed with the discreet way in which the project was managed. ‘They’ve been very unobtrusive and therefore got the best out of people,’ he says.
‘The most effective way to make observational documentary is not with a hoard of people,’ adds Read. ‘In observational documentary, or in fact in any television, the relationship with the people you’re filming with is everything. Why would somebody allow you to carry on filming if they didn’t like you? I wouldn’t. You have to have trust on both sides or it doesn’t work.’
‘In observational documentary, or in fact in any television, the relationship with the people you’re filming with is everything. You have to have trust on both sides or it doesn’t work’ Emma Read
A DEGREE OF SURPRISE
Despite the levels of trust, certain elements of Freemasonry had to remain off camera. Some of the Second Degree is filmed, but almost nothing of the First or the Third appears on screen. ‘Naturally we would have liked to film elements of both the First and Third Degrees,’ says Read, ‘but that was where the line was drawn. As a mason, you only do those once and each is supposed to be this amazing moment – so if you know what’s coming, it’ll spoil it.’
Read did discover a great deal about Freemasonry, however, and was struck by the scale of the charitable work that is done – ‘they hide their light under a bushel, I think’ – as well as the powerful bond of brotherhood that exists throughout the Craft.
In particular, there were two men whose stories resonated with Read. The first, Peter Younger, draws on the support of his fellow Widows Sons masonic bikers after unexpectedly losing his wife, and the mother of his seven-year-old daughter, after she suffered a heart attack. The second, Gulf War veteran Dave Stubbs, recounts the way that he used to sit up at night and feel as though he had ‘been thrown away’ after leaving the army. Later, says Read, ‘we see him being elected and installed as Worshipful Master of his lodge, which is a tearful moment’.
Read expects the series to draw a varied range of responses from the public. ‘My feeling is that some people will have this ridiculous, conspiratorial approach and say, “You’re not showing X, Y and Z.” There will be other people who already love Freemasonry and hopefully there will be some people who go, “Oh that’s interesting, I didn’t know that. It’s completely opened my eyes to it.”’
Although Lowndes expects some concerns from within the brotherhood, he’s anticipating a positive response overall. ‘I’m sure there will be criticism from some of our brethren that we should never have got involved with the documentary. There will no doubt be things in it that some people think we should not have done. However, the general impression I have is that it will be well received – I think we’ll get a lot of support both internally and externally.’
Marking the Tercentenary of Freemasonry naturally raises the question of what the next 300 years will hold. ‘I think we have a very exciting future ahead,’ says Lowndes. ‘We now have more young people coming in and I think we’re giving them better chances to find their feet in Freemasonry than ever before. Within that age group, I can’t remember the Craft being in better shape.’
From the Grand Secretary
We have been fortunate in recent months with extensive coverage across many media outlets. The Sky 1 documentary series has now finished and the DVD will be available for purchase in Letchworth’s Shop. Viewing figures have been excellent, comments from our members supportive and reports indicate a significant interest in Freemasonry from non-masons and potential recruits.
Interest in our organisation has also been enhanced by the coverage given to the unveiling ceremony of the commemorative paving stones that honour those Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War. The event is covered in detail in this edition of Freemasonry Today.
This has been a splendid first half of our Tercentenary year as we approach 24 June, our founding date. Our new Grand Officers for the year have been invested and many have already been involved in various duties. They will clearly become increasingly busy in the run-up to the main event at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 31 October, which promises to be an impressive and memorable occasion.
In this issue, we report on some of the remarkable events and initiatives that are helping to mark our Tercentenary around the country. In Staffordshire, 300 masons and civic dignitaries came together for the dedication of the Masonic Memorial Garden, which has been 16 years in the making. In Canterbury, a Tercentenary Thanksgiving service was held in recognition of the cathedral’s long-standing relationship with Freemasonry. And over in the Isle of Man, six stamps have been issued that are filled with masonic references and – intriguingly – hide a surprise that is only revealed under ultraviolet light.
PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE
The Tercentenary is not just about celebrating our rich history, it is also an opportunity to look forward. Grand Superintendent of Works John Pagella sets out his objectives for UGLE’s property portfolio, as well as a broader agenda to help anyone involved in the management of a masonic building or centre. For John, while Freemasonry is a craft, managing a masonic property is a business. He is keen to encourage masons at Provincial level to ask themselves whether their buildings are not only fit for purpose today but will continue to be so in 10 or 20 years’ time.
In Yorkshire, we meet Jeffrey Long, an 85-year-old army veteran and unstoppable fundraiser who has walked 127 miles between Liverpool and Leeds, undertaken a 90-mile route that included climbing three Yorkshire peaks, and completed the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall in his 84th year. In Leicester, martial artist and cooking sensation Kwoklyn Wan shares his passion for teaching. For Kwoklyn, joining the Craft has been the perfect progression, as it echoes the values he acquired growing up: ‘You learn from a young age to respect your elders; you treat people how you want to be treated. And with the Freemasons I felt that immediately.’
'Remarkable events are helping to mark our Tercentenary around the country’
Watch unique and unprecedented access to the Freemasons
To mark the United Grand Lodge of England's Tercentenary, a Sky television crew were given unique and unprecedented access to discover what it means to be a modern-day Freemason
The five part documentary they made looked to go beyond the myth and legend to discover what it means to be a Freemason today and answer the questions – who are Freemasons and what do they do?
From our regalia to some lavish ceremonies, through to ancient rituals and bonds of brotherhood, many viewers will recently have had the pleasure of watching the documentary ‘Inside the Freemasons’.
There were many behind the scenes highlights to enjoy including coverage of the biggest day of the masonic calendar, the Annual Investiture, and the official consecration of the first masonic football lodge, as well as a feature with UGLE’s newly appointed Chief Executive Officer, Doctor David Staples, FRCP, DepGDC.
Although the documentary was recently shown on Sky 1, if you missed it, fear not, as a special edition on DVD is now available to pre-order: it consists of two DVDs, featuring all five episodes and 30 minutes of exclusive extra content.
The ‘Inside the Freemasons’ DVD will be released by June 15th and is now available to pre-order from Letchworths Shop by clicking here
Craft Annual Investiture
26 April 2017
An address by the MW The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, KG
Brethren, I congratulate all those I have had the pleasure of investing this afternoon with their various ranks. You have all made the distinctive contribution to Freemasonry as is recognised in your promotion or appointment today but I do ask you also to remember that, while the honour rewards past achievements, that does not absolve you of a continuing commitment to ensuring our long term future.
This year brethren, as you may have noticed, sees a major anniversary in the form of our Tercentenary. This presents us with a unique opportunity to promote Freemasonry. A number of events have already taken place and the last two weeks have seen the first two episodes of the Sky TV documentary ‘Inside the Freemasons’, the opening of our Memorial Garden at the National Arboretum and, yesterday, the unveiling outside this hall of the magnificent memorial to those 64 gallant Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross in World War One.
Brethren, the effort put in by so many of you to ensure the success of these different events is quite outstanding. I have therefore decided that it would be appropriate to recognise both your hard work and this Tercentenary year with the award of extra Grand Ranks. How these are to be distributed will be decided in due course but I just wanted to let you know that I greatly appreciate your commitment and dedication.
The smooth running of a ceremonial occasion like this one could not happen without a great deal of planning and I do congratulate the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for their excellent work. My thanks also go to the Grand Secretary and his staff who have devoted a great deal of time and effort to making this a happy and successful event.
Finally, I once again congratulate all those I have invested and appointed today.
From the Grand Secretary
By the time you receive this issue, our Tercentenary year will be well under way and our Rulers will have already attended overseas events in Denmark, Mumbai, India, and Zakynthos, Greece, at our unattached Star of the East Lodge, No. 880. His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent has also attended a church service at Canterbury Cathedral for the Provinces of East and West Kent, Sussex and Surrey. We now await the broadcast in April of the long-anticipated Sky TV documentary Inside The Freemasons.
It is an exciting year as we build towards our showpiece event at the end of October. So far, it is likely that we will welcome around 160 Grand Lodges from around the world to celebrate with us at the Royal Albert Hall and look forward to our next 300 years. We now need to build on our successes and use this year to show ourselves as the vibrant and relevant organisation which is Freemasonry.
Looking forward to the Tercentenary in this issue of Freemasonry Today, Keith Gilbert highlights the planning and organisation of celebratory events taking place across not just the UK but the entire world. As Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes notes in his Senior Insights column, these are exciting times, so we should celebrate in style by showing our pride in being Freemasons.
When it comes to showing the best in Freemasonry, Spinnaker Lodge in the Province of Hampshire & Isle of Wight is a shining beacon. We find out how its members are encouraging younger Freemasons into the Craft with a shared interest in all things sailing. The sixth specialist lodge in the Province to be consecrated in the past four years, Spinnaker will be visiting new marinas and hosting social events at sailing clubs to raise both its own profile and that of Freemasonry in 2017.
Best foot forward
In the north-west of England, we meet a 54-strong group of Freemasons, their families and friends who trekked across Morecambe Bay. Cumberland & Westmorland Provincial Grand Master Norman Thompson and his intrepid travellers not only raised money to help victims of the Cumbria floods, but also showed how Freemasonry is connecting with local communities. The team joined some 1,000 walkers at Arnside Promenade to brave the wet and puddled sands for a memorable day that is now an annual event in the Provincial calendar.
The opportunities for Freemasonry are not just in the face we show the world, but are also in our governance, our leadership, our retention and our management of masonic halls. The Chairman of the Improvement Delivery Group, David Wootton, reports on how he and his team are leading the implementation and delivery of our agreed strategy for Freemasonry to 2020. As David notes, there is much to do but also much to enjoy.
‘We need to use this year to show ourselves as vibrant and relevant’
Transmission date of unprecedented documentary on Freemasonry revealed
Very excited to officially announce that the first episode of the forthcoming Sky 1 documentary series ‘Inside the Freemasons’ will air on the 17th April at 8pm
Emporium Productions, who were commissioned by Sky to produce the series, have this to say on their website: 'Welcome to one of the oldest social networking organisations in the world; a fraternal order that welcomes members regardless of their status, creed or political persuasion – Freemasonry.
'With unique and unprecedented access to the Freemasons, ‘Inside the Freemasons’ asks who are Freemasons and what do they do? As the United Grand Lodge of England celebrates its tercentenary in 2017, we go beyond the myth and legend to discover what it means to be a Freemason today through the words and lives of Freemasons themselves.
'While most of us are familiar with the concept of Freemasons, few can describe who they are and what they do with any confidence or accuracy. What has motivated generations of men to join its ranks? What does the symbolism mean? How does public perception differ to reality? And what does Freemasonry have to offer men and society in the 21st Century?'
14 December 2016
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, our December meeting is always one of the best attended and I am really encouraged to see so many of you here today. In particular well done to Lincolnshire with over 100 members travelling here; 40 from Wiltshire; 20 all the way from Yorkshire, West Riding and, I believe, that there are 16 newly installed Masters from Oxfordshire. Since we changed the rules to allow Master Masons to attend Grand Lodge we have had an excellent display of light blue aprons and they are very much in evidence again today. Bearing in mind work commitments and the eccentricities of our transport system it is a tremendous effort.
I have recently received a copy of the Report of the New and Young Masons Clubs’ Conference and was delighted to learn just how well the clubs are progressing with over 30 established across London and the Provinces. This is a fantastic achievement and I would encourage those new masons in Provinces without such a club to consider setting one up. You would have our full support and I am sure you would be greatly encouraged by your Provincial hierarchy. Indeed, I have asked RW Bro Gareth Jones, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales and Third Grand Principal to act as the focal point here for the movement. It really is a splendid initiative and I congratulate all those involved.
We have heard a lot about charity during the course of today and I have frequently said how proud we should be of all our charities, and not just the big four. They all do tremendous work. You have already heard that during the course of this year the astonishing sum of £14.5m was raised through the hard work of our brethren. The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Festival total of nearly £7.75m is the highest total ever. I can’t believe, brethren, that it was all down to me having moved into Hampshire last year. I suspect that is purely coincidental. Across the board the money raised per capita by all four Provinces in Festival during 2016 was extraordinary and of a similar level. Brethren, your generosity is not taken for granted and is greatly appreciated.
You have also heard from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) about their scheme to give to your local charities £3m next year in recognition of both their own formation and, of course, our Tercentenary. This not only shows your generosity but is also aimed at promoting our involvement in the community.
Brethren, I know that some of you have become frustrated at not being able to get hold of a Tercentenary Jewel. Please be assured that there are now plenty available in the Letchworth’s shop. Unfortunately, initial demand far outstripped supply. In spite of your frustration, may I ask you to beware of cheap imitations. Sadly they do exist and are being offered at a very reduced price, but they are unauthorised and unlawful copies. We are working closely with the Provinces to get them all removed.
The Deputy Grand Master mentioned that the Sky documentary titled Inside Freemasonry would be shown in January. However this has been put back to the Spring. I have seen three of these so far – there are five in all – and have been most encouraged at the sensitive way that we have been portrayed by Emporium, the makers of the film. I would like to thank those Provinces, lodges and, perhaps most of all, those individuals who have so willingly participated.
This gives us a great opportunity in the early part of the year to capitalise on the publicity being generated and we anticipate that other high profile events throughout the year will keep us in the public eye and produce some really positive results. These are exciting times and let us celebrate in style by showing our pride in and talking about our membership. I am absolutely certain that we will all enjoy a splendid year in 2017.
In the meantime, I thank you all for what you have done for Freemasonry in preparing for next year. Keep the enthusiasm going and have a very happy Christmas.
The test of time
Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence discusses how the tenets of Freemasonry have provided a firm foundation over the past 300 years
Many of you will be aware of the excellent work undertaken by the Membership Focus Group (MFG) over the past 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 on to ensuring the timely implementation of the strategy and the MFG has been superseded by the Improvement Delivery Group (IDG). This group will, rather like a well-known wood treatment product, do ‘exactly what it says on the tin’.
The IDG’s remit is to facilitate the delivery of change 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 membership is drawn from London and all the regional groups of Provinces. The IDG 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.
‘The principles of the Craft are as relevant today as they were then.’
Marking a milestone
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, classic car rallies, family fun weekends and supporting youth activities through to dinners and balls. This includes The Grand Ball, which will take place in Freemasons’ Hall next September and will see the Grand Temple converted into one of the largest dance floors in London.
As 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.
As you are all aware, 2017 will start with the broadcast in February of the Sky observational documentary. I have been fortunate enough to have been part of the small group who have seen all the programmes and while, 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.
It has become very noticeable that the times in which we live are described by some as ‘uncertain’. This word 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 18th century.
In their case, the uncertain times included 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. In those and the intervening uncertain times of the subsequent 300 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 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.