Celebrating 300 years
Wednesday, 13 September 2017 10:12

Pro Grand Master's address - September 2017

Quarterly Communication

13 September 2017 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, before I welcome our overseas guests, may I first welcome our new Chief Executive Officer, David Staples, currently masquerading as a Deputy GDC but who, all being well, will become Grand Secretary in due course.

Brethren, welcome back from the summer break which I hope you have been able to enjoy. The Tercentenary celebrations have continued unabated and it has been an extremely busy period since our last meeting.

In June, the Grand Master unveiled a plaque on the outside of this building, erected by the Time Immemorial Lodges, and he was then declared their Worshipful Master at a splendid ceremony at Mansion House. This was particularly appropriate as, one hundred years before, his great uncle and godfather, the Duke of Connaught, had received a similar honour.

The other Rulers and Past Rulers have covered cathedral services commemorating our Tercentenary from St David’s in West Wales to Norwich in the East and from Salisbury and Exeter in the South to Durham in the North and many in between. You have then arranged dinners, a race meeting, car rallies, choral events and concerts, family fun days and digging for fossils – all splendidly organised. Thank you so much.

I was privileged to visit our Districts in the Eastern Archipelago and Sri Lanka and witness at first hand the charitable work that they have been involved with. In Kuala Lumpur I visited the site of, what I believe will be a splendid new home for the elderly and in Sri Lanka the District have raised funding to bring drinking water to an outlying village and three schools in that area. Together with the MCF they are also supporting the relief efforts following the flooding caused by the unprecendented May monsoon.

These, however, felt like short trips compared to our Assistant Grand Master who I feared was in danger of meeting himself coming back as he flew to Buenos Aires on 4 August for a meeting of our District of South America, Southern Division, and then on to Chile for talks with their Grand Master before flying back to Heathrow on 8 August for onward travel to our District of Madras (Chennai). He tells me it was a training run for his November visit to our Districts of New Zealand, North and South Islands, and including our Inspectorate in Fiji and Vanuatu. And finally, just to round it all off, a dinner in Blackpool. This makes it sound as though the Deputy Grand Master has been sitting at home doing little. This is far from the truth and he made many District visits earlier in the year that you have heard about before, and he has added many miles to his car travelling around this country.

I, brethren, am greatly looking forward to visiting our District of Ghana later this month followed by Cyprus next month, and our Inspectorate in Portugal in November. It really is very humbling to witness your splendid efforts in support of Freemasonry. I have mentioned the Districts specifically, but there has also been extraordinary work carried out in all the Provinces. Well done everyone.

Brethren, in June I mentioned the phenomenal response you made to the Manchester bombing and the Grenfell Tower fire. I can confirm that East Lancashire gave the Red Cross in Manchester over £226,000 for the victims and that the Metropolitan Grand Lodge gave £100,000 to the Grenfell Tower Appeal – thank you for your generosity. Well done too, to North Wales, whose Festival with the RMGTB raised £3.1 million at £899 per member. An exceptional result. Brethren, as you would expect, our thoughts are very much with our brethren in the Caribbean and we are in touch with them.

Thank you, also, for all your efforts with the MCF Tercentenary grants and public vote. The public vote closed on 31 July and I can report that over 150,000 votes were cast across UGLE for the 300 charities to be awarded grants and most of these votes – over 80% – were from the general public. I know that the MCF has scrutinized these votes and has announced its award recipients. Congratulations to all involved in the MCF for this splendid initiative.

This project would not have been as successful without the exhaustive use of all social media outlets but I must here issue a caution on its use. Last year we issued a very comprehensive instruction on the use, values and dangers of social media. One of the key points made was that you should ensure that anyone who you post on one of these sites should have agreed to be shown. We recently had an unfortunate incident when this did not happen. Brethren, this is an invasion of privacy and it could have resulted in the person losing his job or any other position. Yes, we need to be open and we want to promote our activities, but we must protect our members’ wishes. A little bit of common sense goes a long way.

Our main event in the next two months is at the Royal Albert Hall where we shall be welcoming over 140 Sovereign Grand Masters from overseas and which, I am advised, will be “edutainment” – you will leave, having been educated and entertained and feeling proud to be a Freemason and proud of what Freemasons have achieved in the last 300 years.

Shortly after that, on 8 November, we shall be celebrating 50 years of our Grand Master also being our First Grand Principal when he will preside at the meeting and invest those awarded Grand Rank in celebration of his achievement.

Brethren, there is still a lot to this year left. Let’s give it a final push to ensure that it is a year to remember, with pride, and a year to use as a springboard for the future.

Published in Speeches

Securing our future

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes is encouraged and  humbled by members’ efforts as they ensure the Tercentenary year is a success

In our Tercentenary year, it is fitting that we look back on our history with pride. On 18 April we remembered brethren who have fallen since 1945 in the service of their country by opening the Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. A week later, in the presence of the Grand Master, we remembered those of our brethren awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War in a magnificent ceremony outside Freemasons’ Hall.

And so, as we look back with pride, we must look forward with confidence, recognising that we are a force for good in society and have so much to contribute to it. The Sky 1 documentary series has given us an amazing platform and viewing figures have been good. It has been well received and our Provinces are reporting an upsurge of interest, which I know you are capitalising on in order to secure our future. In addition, I believe it has enabled us to be aware of how important it is to talk openly about our Freemasonry and, perhaps, how best to do so.

GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT

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. Your charitable giving never ceases to amaze me, and a magnificent total of £3,617,437 was raised at the Sussex Festival for the Grand Charity. This has been followed by the West Yorkshire Festival for the RMBI, which raised £3,300,300. I now have firm figures that show that last year we not only supported our own brethren with more than £15 million in grants, but also helped non-masonic charities with grants in excess of £17 million.

This year, the nation has been rocked by the 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. These have supplemented the extreme generosity shown by many towards this fund, and I have been assured by the Provincial Grand Master that the money will be spent wisely where need is identified.

WORLDWIDE APPEAL

While congratulating you on all your efforts, I must pay tribute to my fellow Rulers, who have been globetrotting on our behalf. Having previously been to Bombay, the Deputy Grand Master paid a second visit to India this year to join the District of Northern India’s Tercentenary celebrations, and 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 its Lodge of Loyalty.

Carrying out these visits is a great privilege, and our brethren in the Districts value our presence and have great pride in being members of the oldest Grand Lodge.

‘We must look forward with confidence, recognising that we are a force for good’

Published in UGLE

At a celebration dinner to mark the 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England, Northumberland Freemasons gave away £300,000 to local charities

Provincial Grand Master of Northumberland Ian Craigs hosted the event at St James’ Park where almost 800 Freemasons, their families and special guests from North East charities celebrated the Tercentenary. Special guest of the evening was Pro Grand Master Peter Geoffrey Lowndes.

Although the evening was filled with entertainment, good food and distinguished guests, it was the charitable side of Freemasonry that stole the show.

Ian Craigs explained that the Provincial Grand Lodge of Northumberland has given away £300,000 to local charities this year to boost worthwhile and deserving projects throughout the region. There are 27 lodge meeting places across North Tyneside, Newcastle and Northumberland and the donations all went to local good causes.

Ian Craigs commented: ‘We’ve tried to donate money to charities close to each lodge building so that we can really make a positive impact on local projects and causes near to where Masonry takes place.

‘Our donations, which were all chosen by our members, will go a long way towards helping the charities concerned carry on their sterling work. This is one of the main things that Freemasons do and often we give without telling anyone. This year, we celebrate our 300th year and we’d like everyone to know how we help their local community.’

Charities benefiting from donations included the Hextol Foundation, Mustard Tree Trust and Percy Hedley Foundation who were each granted £10,000.

Others included the Berwick & District Cancer Support Group, Mind Active Charity and Leading Link who were each given £5,000 on the night.

Leading Link’s manager Julie Greener said: ‘This is a very generous donation that will help us to give valuable skills to the young people of Northumberland. At the moment, we are working on a mentoring scheme that is helping vulnerable young people in the more rural parts of the county. We are very grateful to Northumberland Freemasons for the opportunity to carry on with our work.’

In addition to the 33 charities who attended the celebration event, a further 45 will receive cheques for the good work they do to help the people of Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017 06:00

Tercentenary banner continues its journey

On what was one of the warmest days of the year so far, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes joined Provincial Grand Master RW Bro Michael Wilks at Hampshire and Isle of Wight's Provincial Grand Lodge meeting in Southampton

One of the highlights of the day was the official handover of the Tercentenary banner from the Province to RW Bro Philip Bullock - Provincial Grand Master for Wiltshire

The specially commissioned banner has now been carried through the Provinces of Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney and Hampshire and Isle of Wight and on 19th July it will be formally handed to RW Bro Richard Merritt, Provincial Grand Master for Dorset.

This year not only marks the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England but also the conclusion of the Masonic Samaritan Fund 2017 Wiltshire Festival, which provides the ideal excuse to hold a celebration lunch in Trowbridge’s Civic Centre on Saturday 23rd September 2017.

The Freemasons of Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire sponsored the Racing and Family Fun Day at Windsor Racecourse celebrating 300 years of Freemasonry

A huge crowd of over 10,000 were in attendance with seven races, plenty of family fun and special guest Tony Hadley making up the second day of the Best of British Festival at Windsor Racecourse on Sunday July 2nd.

2017 marks the official 300th birthday of Freemasonry, celebrating how 300 years ago, on June 24th 1717, four London Lodges came together to form the Premier Grand Lodge. The Tercentenary is being commemorated with a calendar of high profile events including the Windsor Race Day.

In the bright sunshine, it was a glorious day of racing and free entertainment including a fun fair which further enhanced the family atmosphere. The special day ended with a fantastic evening concert by ex-Spandau Ballet member Tony Hadley.

During the course of the day, Richard Hone, President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, presented a grant award to Professor Sonia Blandford of the "Achievement for All" charity of £240,000 to help thousands of under-performing children in their education.

Provincial Grand Master of the Berkshire Freemasons Martin Peters said: 'This was a wonderful and very special celebratory event with over 4,000 Masons and their families and thousands of other racegoers enjoying an incredible occasion. 

'From the many favourable comments I received there can be no doubt that we opened up the public’s perception of Freemasonry in a beneficial way. Myself and Peter Lowndes, the Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, would like to congratulate everyone who contributed to such a brilliant event to celebrate our Tercentenary - matched only by the glorious weather.'

The Classic 300 has been continuing in full force, with two runs held on the same day in Leicestershire and Bristol on July 2nd

In Leicestershire, several Freemasons participated with classic and future classic cars along with their motorcycles. The route was arranged by W Bro David Crocker and W Bro Mark Pierpoint, which started at the Devonshire Court RMBI Home in Oadby. This gave the residents a chance to look at the vehicles including the special edition Mike Tunnicliffe E-type Jaguar.

The classic car and bike enthusiasts then drove in convoy for the 15 mile journey to Bradgate Park on the outskirts of north Leicester. Upon arrival, they were warmly greeted by the Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, RW Bro David Hagger.

Many then walked through the park to the site of the Memorial Wood which is being funded by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Leicestershire and Rutland and the United Grand Lodge of England as part of the Tercentenary celebrations.

The Park Ranger Peter Tyldesley gave an interesting talk on the history of the park and also the construction of the Memorial Wood which is due to be opened by the Pro Grand Master RW Bro Peter Lowndes on Thursday October 5th 2017. The visitors were shown the newly installed 14 tonne granite stone, which is to be the centrepiece for the wood along with a walk around the paths, which have been created to meander throughout the one acre wood.

South West – Route 2

On the same day, the crowds also gathered on a lovely summer's morning at Ashton Gate Stadium, home of Bristol City FC and Bristol Rugby, to await the arrival of a wonderful selection of classic cars. This was the departure point of the South West Route 2 run to the world famous Haynes Motor Museum in Somerset.

A giant electronic screen on the side of the stadium welcomed all the crews as they entered the car park and after light refreshments the first cars were ready to leave. The Provincial Grand Master of Bristol Alan Vaughan, accompanied by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Jonathan Davis, presented the "travelling gavel" to John Slade, who was driving a beautiful 1967 E-Type Jaguar.

The Union Jack was raised and then at 30 intervals the other 23 cars began their scenic journey, where they passed through Cheddar Gorge, Wookey Hole and the Somerset Lowlands.

Morgans, a Sunbeam Tiger, an Aston Martin, a Triumph Stag, a Royal Sceptre, a Bentley and a Mini Cooper, to name but a few, were then cheered by the spectators as they left.

Shirt sleeves and sun cream were the order of the day as Nottinghamshire Freemasons celebrated the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England with their Community Fun Day

Held in the hub of Nottingham’s city centre, the Old Market Square, the public was treated to fabulous entertainment at this free to attend event. The UGLE representative and special guest for the day was the Past Pro Grand Master, Lord Northampton, who was accompanied by his wife Lady Northampton.

Community was at the very centre of this incredible spectacle, with over 40 local charities supported by Nottinghamshire Freemasons invited to attend. Their hard work, undertaken with the assistance of donations by Nottinghamshire Freemasons, was on display for everyone to see. The Masonic Charitable Foundation promoted the current Tercentenary Awards with their unique Human Fruit Machine – a popular attraction for visiting Provincial Grand Masters.  

Live bands and international dancers performed and local sports stars were interviewed on the big stage by two local radio presenters. Pop-up entertainment spots, a Victorian market, fairground rides, face painters, storytellers, a graffiti artist and even an organ grinder all added to the great family friendly atmosphere. Nottinghamshire Teddies for Loving Care grassed over an area for their TLC Teddy Bear Picnic and handed out lots of goodies to the children.

In blazing sunshine, the undoubted highlight of the day captured the attention and imagination of the Nottinghamshire public. A procession, the first in Nottingham since 1946, of over 200 brethren in full regalia marched from the Masonic HQ through the streets of Nottingham to the city centre, assembling at the steps of the Council Building. 

The procession was led by the ‘Knights of Nottingham’ on horseback and the banner of Provincial Grand Lodge, followed by the banners and representitives of 70 lodges in Nottinghamshire. The public lined the streets, cheering and applauding as the procession passed. 

In addressing the public and the procession, the Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire, RW Bro Philip Marshall, paid tribute to 300 years of English Freemasonry, the fantastic communities in Nottinghamshire and the contribution made by local Freemasons. Lord Northampton followed with an address in which he highlighted the positive role in society played by freemasons through their charitable work and congratulated all on their fantastic contribution to the UGLE Tercentenary celebrations.

Please scroll through the gallery at the top to view photos from the parade

Wednesday, 14 June 2017 09:31

Pro Grand Master's address - June 2017

Quarterly Communication

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.

Published in Speeches
Tuesday, 13 June 2017 09:45

A garden to remember in Staffordshire

As part of the Tercentenary celebrations, 300 masons and civic dignitaries came together for the dedication of the Masonic Memorial Garden in Staffordshire

In late 2001, Lichfield mason Roger Manning suggested the creation of a masonic memorial to be sited at the newly created National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Burton-on-Trent.

It was agreed that the masonic garden should serve in the remembrance of all Freemasons, whether they had died in the service of their country or through sickness, accident or old age. There would be no reference on the site to specific lodges, groups or individuals.

Over the next 16 years, following four different Provincial Grand Masters, two architects, more than a dozen designs, planting failures, floods, dozens of detailed reports and many meetings, the Masonic Memorial Garden was finally unveiled on 18 April 2017 to over 300 brethren and civic dignitaries.

The service was witnessed by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton, President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson and Grand Secretary Willie Shackell.

A welcome to all in attendance was given by local builder and brother Eddie Ford, who had been responsible for the garden’s development over the entire 16-year period. The dedication service was undertaken by the Provincial Grand Chaplain, the Reverend Bernard Buttery.

Civic leaders at the event included the Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Ian Dudson; the Mayor of East Staffordshire, Cllr Beryl Toon; and the Mayor of Tamworth, Cllr Ken Norchi. Provincial Grand Masters from many neighbouring Provinces, together with representatives from all of the 96 Staffordshire lodges, were also present.

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.’

Published in UGLE
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