THE FREEMASON IN SOCIETY
by V.W.Bro. Lt.-Col. N.G. Thorne OBE TD DL PGSwdB
The origins of Freemasonry are to be found in biblical times, but it's
modern revival came at the end of the medieval guild system.
Growth of the guilds in the middle ages for every conceivable trade brought
with it three main benefits - the proper training of apprentices to learn the
skill of the trade, a level of quality control for the customer and a
brotherhood which provided a form of mutual help and support for the
guild member and his family.
The decline of the guilds at the end of the 17th century left a void for the
welfare of the craftsman, who could no longer look to his guild to provide
the support previously available for him and his family. It was therefore
only natural that the void should be filled and this was accomplished by
Freemasonry which was in many respects the forerunner of the welfare
state in that it provided a form of mutual help. It was therefore important to
establish whether a candidate was in good health or sound in wind and
limb. Clearly the admission of someone likely to make an immediate claim
would not have been fair on the others. This has given the wrong
impression to some of our critics that to this day we only admit the
In earlier times, Freemasons were less secretive about their membership of
a Masonic lodge. The mason was in fact showing a high degree of
responsibility towards his family and one that others were keen to emulate.
The main purpose of the relationship was mutual support and social
discourse and neither could give rise to criticism. Naturally those outside
any system are inclined to jealousy on occasion, but accusations of
favourable treatment as a consequence were rarer in an age when
clubability was common at all levels of society. Moreover apart from the
actual signs, tokens and words, the membership was very open and the
non-mason could become aware of a lot more about what went on within
Freemasons who were justly proud of their membership tended to wear
their Masonic regalia on every possible occasion, and not only when there
was a direct connection. For example one Lord Lieutenant of a County
who was also the Provincial Grand Master proceeded to lay the foundation
stone of a hospital in full regalia because his Province had made a
contribution. As a result the motives and actions of those concerned
became open to question and Freemasonry was subject to criticism to
such an extent that it was decided that it should become a private matter
and regalia would not be worn outside the temple, even at the festive
board, except by special dispensation.
Moving out of the unwelcome limelight into the shadows lodges then gave
grounds for criticism, with accusations of excessive secrecy and the
ultimate claim that Freemasonry was a secret society which quite clearly it
never has been. This accusation has not been any easier to dispel as a
result of the injunctions some employers have placed upon their staff -
sometimes politically motivated - not to become Freemasons. This has
meant that lists of Freemasons are not easily obtained and members have
been left to decide whether or not to disclose their membership of the craft.
It is faced with this background that we approach the last quarter of the
tercentenary of the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge of England.
It is a pity that the high ideals and laudable motives of Freemasonry are
through ignorance or malice so often misunderstood. The overriding duty
of every Freemason is and always has been to God, to Queen and country
and to family and connections before self or Freemasonry.
Tb put Freemasonry in its proper context, it is essential to examine the
charge to the new initiate, which says, "As a citizen of the world, I am to
enjoin you to be exemplary in the discharge of your civil duties, by never
proposing or at all countenancing any act that may have a tendency to
subvert the peace and good order of society, by paying due obedience to
the laws of any State which may for a time become the place of your
residence or afford you its protection, and above all, by never losing sight
of the allegiance due to the Sovereign of your native land, ever
remembering that nature has implanted in your breast a sacred and
indissoluble attachment towards that country whence you derived your birth
and infant nurture."
This philosophy is again emphasised at the annual installation in the
beautifully expressed Charge to all its members, "Brethren, such is the
nature of our Constitution that as some must of necessity rule and teach,
so others must of course learn, submit and obey. Humility in each is an
essential qualification. The Brethren whom the Worshipful Master has
selected to assist him in the ruling and governing of the Lodge are too well
acquainted with the principles of Masonry, and the Laws of our Institution,
to warrant any mistrust that they will be found wanting in the discharge of
the duties of their respective offices, or that they will exceed the powers
with which they are entrusted; and you, Brethren, I am sure, are of too
generous a disposition to envy their preferment. I therefore trust that we
shall have but one aim in view, to please each other and unite in the grand
design of being happy and communicating happiness. And as this
association has been formed and perfected with so much unanimity and
concord, long may it continue. May brotherly love and affection ever
distinguish us as men and as Masons. May the principals and tenets of our
profession, which are founded on the basis of religious truth and virtue,
teach us to measure our actions by the rule of rectitude, square our
conduct by the principles of morality, and guide our inclinations, and even
our thoughts, within the compass of propriety. Hence we learn to be meek,
humble and resigned; to be faithful to our God, our Country, and our Laws;
to drop a tear of sympathy over the failings of a Brother; and to pour the
healing balm of consolation into the bosom of the afflicted. May these
principles and tenets be transmitted, pure and unpolluted, through this
Lodge from generation to generation."
It is undoubtedly true that in recent years the world media has become
more powerful than ever before. The full horrors or ecstasy of tragedies or
triumphs can be seen in the world's living rooms at the time they happen.
No longer is it possible for military commanders to take advantage of the
fog of war to the same extent as they have in the past. Everyone can see
and pronounce judgement on the results of military action almost
simultaneously as we saw in the Gulf conflict.
This is both good and bad. On the one hand everyone can make a
judgement of events for themselves on the case presented, but on the
other this creates an inevitable thirst for news which means that every nook
and cranny of society is being explored and brought into the open for
public debate. In these circumstances, the privacy so eagerly sought by
Freemasonry in the last Fifty years is now difficult to sustain without
accusations imputed to dark and sinister motives.
The privacy of our ceremonies is readily seized upon by the media and
others to suggest impropriety. It is inevitable that bad apples are to be
found in every organisation and Freemasonry cannot expect to be totally
exempt. However, the view that Freemasons spend all their time helping
and supporting one another through thick and thin to the exclusion an
detriment of all others is totally wrong.
The vast majority of Freemasons have no idea whether their neighbours,
the people they work with or meet in the course of their business fives, are
also Freemasons. In fact it can be embarrassing to know and be put in the
position of questioning ones own judgement in giving preference to one
person rather than another. Those who prematurely attempt to draw
attention to their membership of the craft are therefore often treated with
suspicion in that they might be drawing attention to their concern that they
might not be able to compete fairly purely on their own ability.
In recent years Grand Lodge has been punctilious in expelling those who
have brought the craft into disrepute and rightly so, but many members
have a heavy heart in doing so as they have undertaken to help a brother
in need and there is no reason why they should not do so but this must not
give any appearance of condoning wrong doing.
Even in our daily fives, if an actual or potential conflict of duties or interests
is known to exist or is foreseen, a declaration to that effect should be made
and it may on occasions be prudent to disclose membership to avoid what
others mistakenly imagine to be a potential conflict or bias.
It almost seems too obvious to mention that a freemason must not use his
membership to promote his own or anyone else's business, professional
or personal interests and a Freemason who transgresses this rule may
quite properly expect to be suspended from Masonic activities or even
expelled. Nor should Freemasonry be allowed to harm a man's family or
other connections by taking too much of his time or his money or causing
him to act in any other way against their interests.
A Freemasons duty as a citizen must always prevail over any obligation to
other Freemasons, and any attempt to shield a Freemason who has acted
dishonourably or unlawfully or to confer an unfair advantage on another
Freemason is contrary to this prime duty.
To summarise it is important to remember that Freemasonry is not a secret
society. However, like many other societies, it regards some of its internal
affairs as private matters for its members. Its aims and principles are not
secret, and copies of the constitutions and rules can be obtained by
interested members of the public. The only secrets of Freemasonry are
concerned with its traditional modes of recognition and its ceremonies are
private, but in ordinary conversation there is very little about Freemasonry
which may not be discussed. Moreover on inquiry for acceptable reasons,
Freemasons are free and will be proud to acknowledge their own
membership as their predecessors have done now for 275 years.
The general interest of the public has grown, is growing and will not
diminish in all facets of life and Freemasonry cannot expect to escape this
scrutiny. However, providing we are able to show that we have joined for
the right motives, namely for charitable and social purposes, there is no
reason for us to be ashamed of our membership. In fact, quite the reverse.
We have a long and proud history of service to society in general and to
those in need in particular - whoever they may be.
TOPIC 1 (b)
Should a Police Officer be a Freemason?
By W Bro. R C Young, PGPurs
The question of whether a police officer can carry out his duties
professionally and fairly and be a Freemason is a subject which causes
considerable concern and anxiety to both police officers and the public
It is widely believed that Freemasonry is strongly represented in the Police
Service and as the Service occupies a special position in society, police
officers must be seen to be above reproach if the Service is to enjoy a
successful and essential partnership with the public. Membership of what
is perceived as a secret society casts doubts, rightly or wrongly, on the
Police Service and criminal justice system. It is also believed that the
organisation is there to promote advantages to its members.
Freemasons maintain that Freemasonry is not a secret society but a society
with secrets. This distinction generates much puzzlement amongst laymen
but there is some difference. A truly secret society would be one where its
very existence would be unknown to anyone other than its members. This
is not the case with regard to Freemasonry as its existence is widely
known, as are many of its members.
Also there is nothing about the organisation that is incapable of research.
Many books are to be found in book shops and libraries, e.g. 'Inside the
Brotherhood' by Martin Short, 'Darkness Visible and Christian by Degrees'
by Walton Hannah and 'The Brotherhood' by Stephen Knight. Each of
these sets out the aims, ceremonies, signs, symbols and passwords of the
organisation. In addition, television and the tabloids have frequently carried
Other organisations which have secrets, e.g. The Royal Andeluvian Order
of Buffaloes, The Elks, The Moose and The Knights of Saint Columbia, do
not attract media attention but little is known about their activities or
membership, least of all how many police officers participate.
Recently Grand Lodge decided to change its policy, whereby Freemasonry
became more open and accountable. A parallel situation has occurred in
recent years within the Police Service, including the similarity of opening up
Masonic centres and police buildings for public viewing and inspection.
Whilst this open policy is generally applauded by most Masons, police
officers and the public alike, for some it may well have led to more
problems than it has solved. For a policeman who is also a Mason the
problem has magnified.
Some tabloids have identified police offers, mainly senior ones, as
Freemasons and implied impropriety because of their membership. For
them the media pressure has become intense and an intrusion on their
private life, impacting on their careers, families, friends and work
Freemasonry has this effect on the media. It is very easy to see conspiracy
when dealing with a group whose membership is perceived to be secret.
Critics of it are also not going to be too concerned about dealing fairly with
an organisation they perceive to be set up for the unfair benefit of its
members. The tragedy of this is that while the Police Service is seen as a
stronghold of Freemasonry, any mud which is thrown at Masons in general
sticks to the Service as a whole.
There are many, some of whom are police officers, e.g. Ex Chief Inspector
Woolard of the Metropolitan Police, who has carried out an intense media
campaign against Freemasonry, who feel they have been the victims of
Masonic conspiracy. The media will always latch onto such people,
whatever the merits of their case, and the whole round of smears and
innuendo will surface again. Each time it does the public's image of the
police will inevitably suffer. Each time the public will suspect, however
groundlessly, that there is one law for the policeman who is a Freemason
and one law for everyone else.
Some people would like to see Police Regulations ban officers from joining
Freemasonry and a more liberal use made of Regulation 10 and Schedule
2.1 of the Police Regulations 1987, which deals with the restrictions on the
private life of members. It states "A member shall at all times abstain from
any activity which is likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of his
duties or which is likely to give rise to the impression among members of
the public that it may so interfere".
It is conceivable that this Regulation could be used in a disciplinary action
if it could be proved that an officer's involvement with Freemasonry
interfered with his duty. In 1985 the Commissioner of Police of the
Metropolis, Sir Kenneth Newman, published and served on every serving
officer of that Force a manual entitled 'The Policing Principals of the
Metropolitan Police'. It advised officers not to join Freemasonry as it was
incompatible with police duties and suggested officers who were already
Freemasons should ponder on whether they should remain. Whilst this
could not be a direct order as it is not unlawful for anyone to belong to
Freemasonry and it would be an unwarranted interference with private life,
it was laid down as an edict and many acted upon it, fearing the possible
consequences. This manual is given to every recruit who joined the
Service and every effort is made to dissuade them from joining.
The Chief Constables of West Mercia, North Wales and Lincoinshire, to
name but a few, repeated the advice and similarly discouraged their
officers. Sir James Anderton, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester,
stated that he wanted stricter guidelines as he felt that membership of the
society in general was incompatible with membership of the Police Service.
The Chief Constables of the West Midlands, Essex and West Yorkshire
stated they would not be following the Metropolitan Police example, as did
Mr John Duke, the Chief Constable of Hampshire, stating There are already
enough restrictions on a police officer's private life. If Freemasonry was
incompatible with being a police officer I am quite sure the law would
In 1988 Mr Dale Campbell-Savours, MP, tried unsuccessfully to introduce
a bill in the House of Commons prohibiting police officers becoming
Freemasons and called on all who were to resign.
This pressure has inevitably taken its toll on serving officers who are
Freemasons. Many have resigned from their Lodges, gone on the country
list or have been forced to keep a very low profile.
Similarly, officers have had to take the same course of action when they
have found themselves in Lodges with brethren convicted of criminal
offences. The Discipline code prohibits association with criminals and
police officers have found themselves in an impossible position.
Fortunately this has now been resolved since Grand Lodge has been
A great concern to many police officers, both Freemasons and otherwise,
is the question of promotion. Those who are not Freemasons accuse its
members of favouring the selection of other Masons but since some chief
officers have announced Freemasonry to be incompatible with police duty,
there is a great concern that Freemasons are deliberately not being
selected. There is evidence in support of the latter, as some Freemasons
have been informed that they will not be selected whilst they remain in the
Craft, despite assurances that it will not happen.
Freemasons believe there should be no difficulty in a police officer being
a Freemason as the attestation of a constable on appointment lies four
square and bears more than a passing similarity to the Charge. The initiate
is also told before he takes his obligation that "In those vows there is
nothing incompatible with your civil, moral or religious duties". This clearly
shows that a policeman can be a sound and respected Freemason as well
as a dedicated and honourable policeman.
To most, joining Freemasonry means joining a body of men who place
integrity and duty to their fellow man above all else. These are exactly the
qualities required in every police officer. In addition, in both police officers
and Freemasons, there are many examples where personal dedication,
probity and honour are second to none. The thoughts of others are
reflected in charity giving and the wide remit in dispensing the monies
raised to worthy causes beyond Freemasonry.
Freemasons believe that if every policeman, Freemason or otherwise, could
uphold the edicts and principles of Freemasonry, then there would be a
very fine Police Service indeed.
In his address to Grand Lodge on 12 September 1984, the MW Pro Grand
Master Lord Cornwallis said 'There is nothing incompatible between
Freemasonry and the Police Service. The principals of Freemasonry should
indeed improve the quality of a Freemason's discharge of his public and
private responsibilities, whatever they may by. Freemasons are forbidden
to use their membership to promote their or anyone else's business,
professional or personal interests and are subject to Masonic discipline if
they transgress. Finally, their duties as citizens - even more if they are
police officers - must prevail."
Some policemen are Masons and some Masons are policemen. Both have
to be of strong moral fibre and be prepared to stand up and be counted.
It seems the most successful of both invariably have very strong
personalities. They have to be in the present situation.
Should a Christian be a Freemason?
by W Bro. The Rev. Norman Lea JP BA
The question which this paper seeks to address has, over recent years,
assumed an importance and a relevance that older generations of
Freemasons would not have thought possible. This has occurred because
various Church governing bodies - The Methodist Conference, and the
General Synod of the Church of England - have declared the two to be
incompatible. It is the basic and overriding contention of this paper that
there is no theological or doctrinal, moral or social reason why a Christian
should not be a Freemason.
It is necessary, first of all, to attempt an outline of what the Christian faith
teaches. It is necessary, because it is essential to know what is meant
when a person calls himself a Christian.
The Christian is one who believes in a God who is the Creator God, Creator
of 'all things in heaven and earth'. The 'crown' of Creation, according to
the Bible, is Man, created 'a little lower than the angels', having within
himself the means to respond to and acknowledge God. Indeed, the Bible
stresses that Man is only truly Man to the extent in which he does, through
worship and deed, respond and acknowledge God to the fullest possible
extent. It is at this point that the picture becomes distorted. We do not,
individually or collectively, respond to or acknowledge God. In fact, our
human condition is such that with unrelenting application, we seem to go
headlong in the opposite direction to that which providence and destiny
point us. To the theologian this state of affairs is know as Sin, sin that
seems part of our nature, and sin that we actively commission in our failure
to be what God intends us to be.
God intended us to be not only creatures created out of love, but beings
who could respond to that love. His eternal Love is such that he cannot
and will not abandon us, His creatures, to our own fate. The Old
Testament is really the beginning of this story of God's relationship with us
His people. It is the bitter sweet account of this loving relationship, the
constancy of God's love and the prodigality of that of His people. The Old
Testament at its best looks forward to the time when God will 'bring His
people home', when He will give us the means to come back to Him and
to fulfil our true role in His scheme of Creation. The New Testament is the
realisation of this vision. The Birth, Death and Resurrection of Jesus is the
fulfilment of all that the prophets, and the aspirations to which the Old
Testament had looked forward. Here, finally and irrevocably was the
means to bridge the gap between humanity as a whole and God, its loving
Creator and Sustainer. The Christian will not and cannot compromise on
this basic truth.
But this truth of what God has done for us in the person of Jesus, is not a
mere cerebral truth demanding only intellectual assent, it is a truth that
demands various responses from those who would be part of it. By means
of the Church, or the Sacraments, or the life of Prayer, or the inspiration of
Holy Scripture, the Christian feeds off the Redeeming work of Christ as
displayed on the Cross and the Empty Tomb. It is by these 'instruments'
of Redemption that the Christian knows it is possible to begin a relationship
of love with God, and by personal sacrifice and dedication, to allow that
relationship to grow and mature. It is an all embracing relationship, open
ended to see the whole world and everything in it as within the scope of
Redemption. Once it becomes exclusive and introverted its power is
negated and its saving strength diminished.
Freemasonry does not challenge or seek to challenge anything that has
been said above. It does not set itself up as a rival or even a parallel
religion, to do so would mean that it would be impossible for a Christian to
acknowledge let along practice Freemasonry. Masonry does not offer a
'system' of Redemption, it does not seek to enhance or provide a means
by which the Mason is expected or encouraged to see his Masonic
activities as being acts of worship. A Masonic Lodge is not a church, but
a group of men who seek to implement certain worthy, upright and highly
desirable common basic ideals, which can but add to the richness and
variety of life and living.
The Masonic world, is a world rich in symbolism and high ideals. Its
principle symbol is that of the Temple, built by King Solomon in response
to God's command. The story of its construction, quite naturally, receives
a great deal of poetic license in Masonic ritual. Part of that poetry is the
vision of giving life to the symbol by identifying the Mason with the process
of construction. The Masonic ideal is to construct within the individual the
virtues of brotherly love, relief for those less fortunate than oneself and the
search for truth and personal integrity. The symbol of 'skilled craftsmen'
chosen originally for their expertise and skill for the great work in hand, is
Masonically the skill of shaping from the raw material of each member of
a Lodge a deeper understanding of the concept of brotherhood and the
sharing of common concerns. The Masonic Lodge is the 'workplace' for
both the demonstration and the teaching of such skills.
Solomon called upon God for help in the great endeavour he had
undertaken. So likewise, the Masonic Lodge calls on God for help in its
endeavours. This is no empty, ritualistic gesture, but a 'corner-stone' that
underpins all Masonic activity. It would seem quite natural, in this context,
for the symbolic 'builder' - the Mason - to refer to God,in the symbol of the
Architect, and to do so without in anyway diminishing the concept of God
or indeed to create another deity which the Christian could not
acknowledge or countenance.
The Craft is precisely what it says it is. A Craft for building a moral
structure centred upon those who seek to participate in its activities. It
seeks neither to challenge or rival the claims of faith made by the Christian.
Masonry cannot and does not diminish the Lordship of Christ, or replace
His Redeeming and Saving Power. This paper has tried, within its limits, to
affirm wholeheartedly the Christian standpoint and to outline the Masonic
view, and to see no challenge from the Craft to those who wish to practice
and uphold the Christian life.
RELATIONS BETWEEN GRAND LODGES AND PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF
by R.W.Bro. J.M. Raylor Prov G.M. Yorkshire, North and East Ridings
1. Freemasons know about the basic principles for Grand Lodge
recognition, which have governed relations between Grand Lodges for a
very long time and were codified and adopted by the "Home" Grand
Lodges in 1929. They are set out informally in Grand Lodge's leaflet
"Freemasonry's External Relations", which also mentions irregular or
unrecognised Grand Lodges.
"There are some self-styled Masonic bodies which do not meet these
standards, e.g. which do not require a belief in a Supreme Being, or which
allow or encourage their members to participate as such in political matters.
These bodies are not recognised by the Grand Lodge of England as being
Masonically regular, and Masonic contact with them is forbidden."
2. The non-Masonic world finds Freemasonry a difficult concept and would
not be eager to add regularity for further understanding, but members of
the Craft should know what is involved, so that in explaining Freemasonry
as practised under regular Grand Lodges they can point out that Masonic
bodies which do not comply with the basic principles are irregular, and
cannot be recognised as Grand Lodges.
Freemasonry is many things to many people
To the church it is a religion.
To young Masons it is out of date and out of touch and not prepared to
change anything, and it should.
To old Masons it is always changing things, and it should not.
Mr Average accuses it of helping its own and doing nothing for anyone
else. It is secretive - it is even likened to the Mafia.
If a Policeman is also a Mason he is considered to be corrupt.
Those of us who are Masons and know what we are and what we do, find
it difficult to understand how we can be thought of in this way. How did it
We have been in existence far longer than most organisations of a similar
nature and We have our traditions, many of which go back a long way.
We have given large sums of money to non Masonic charities for many
years and we have not sought publicity as that was our way of giving. The
public, therefore, knew nothing about that side of Freemasonry. We
similarly wished to conduct our Masonic life with the same lack of publicity,
but this caused concern and it was thought we had something to hide.
Giving the appearance of secrecy has, understandably, created mistrust in
all we do.
Let me tell you of a Mason in my Province who is an old boy of the school.
When he was to go before Past Masters Committee before becoming a
Mason he asked his Mother if his Father had ever told her anything about
his own interview. She replied that he had not, and added that he never
told her anything about Freemasonry and so she knew nothing. All she did
know was that they kept themselves to themselves and no one outside
Freemasonry knows who they are, so do not be surprised when you enter
the room to find them wearing hoods or having their faces covered with
That was 40 years ago when Freemasonry was still enjoying a post war
boom. Membership was increasing sharply, new Lodges were being
consecrated and Lodges had waiting lists. The media had not focused its
unhelpful attention on us. If that was a widow's perception of Freemasonry
then, just think what is in the minds of the general public today.
In the debate at the General Synod in July 1987, the Archbishop of York
saw Freemasonry as "a fairly harmless eccentricity". The majority of the
delegates saw us as much more sinister than that. We were blasphemers
- though this was later withdrawn - we were a religion which did not
acknowledge the Founder of the Christian faith, Paganism was involved in
our "worship" and although many thinking members of the Church have
had a change in mind, much remains to be done before the majority of the
clergy and laity change their minds.
We were all surprised when the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan
Police advised members of his Force not be Freemasons. The question of
dual loyalties raised its head. The Press, without of course, any proof
whatsoever, sowed the doubts about favouritism in promotion that
somehow Freemasons got away with things which other people did not.
If somebody like the head of a distinguished police force hinted at all not
being well, then doubts would certainly be created in the public's mind.
Then a certain P2 Lodge - always referred to as a Masonic Lodge, of
course - reared its ugly head. Corruption in high places - yes, those
Freemasons are all for themselves, look after themselves, etc., etc. become
Firmly implanted in the public's mind and the continuing saga of the
member of P2 found murdered under a London bridge has not helped to
remove the image of the former penalties.
We have to face the fact that we still have the image of being a secret
society - despite the fact that our H.Q. is open to the public every day - we
are still considered to be a prosperous select group who look after
themselves and their own - despite our nonMasonic charitable work, of
people who favour one another when it comes to promotions etc. These
points need not be laboured, we know that they are brought about through
ignorance. Yes, the general perception of Freemasonry is not a healthy
one and in our hearts we know it. We do the cause of Freemasonry a
disservice if we bury our heads in the sand and pretend that given time all
will come good again.
EXAMINATION OF THE CAUSE
Why and how did we get ourselves into this position? If we look back to the
last century or even a period of 60 years ago, Freemasonry was held in
high regard by the public. Membership was something to be attained as
In 1883 H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, was the Grand Master and he visited
York to lay the foundation stone of the new Institute of Popular Science and
Literature. York was fully decorated for the occasion. Provincial Grand
Lodge was opened in the Assembly Rooms and Grand Lodge was opened
in the Guildhall. Both at 10.00 a.m. In full regalia all these Masons
processed through York for the Grand Master to lay the foundation stone.
A banquet was held after the ceremony with a mixture of Loyal, Masonic
and Civil Toasts. The whole event was recorded in the local press.
It is a great shame that Masonic exposure such as this no longer happens.
A glance through the editions of papers like the Daily Telegraph shows that
in the 1930s Freemasonry received a "good" press. Pictures of the laying
of the Foundation Stone of the R.M. Hospital show the then Prince of
Wales, Duke of York and Duke of Kent all in full Masonic regalia.
For some unknown reason attitudes to public relations changed and we
went in on ourselves. We were constantly told not to comment on
Freemasonry or discuss the Craft outside of the Lodge or with non Masons.
For a period of almost 50 years we acted as though we were a secret
society. No wonder our detractors had a field day. They knew that they
could write what they liked about us, produce so-called documentary films
for television etc., safe in the knowledge that Freemasons would obey the
"no comment" command.
We only have ourselves to blame for the position we now find ourselves in.
We have paid a heavy price for failing to realise the importance of good
P.R. work. We must learn from that era and never make those mistakes
HOW DO WE RECTIFY THE POSITION?
We have made a very good start. We now have the video "The
Freemasons", and our publicity leaflets, our permanent exhibition and
Grand Lodge being open to the public etc. We have only scratched the
surface and Grand Lodge can only give a lead. It is up to every Freemason
to be an ambassador for the Craft.
In my province we have given great emphasis to holding Open Days where
non Masons can actually enter our buildings and ask about things that
worry them. In Hull there is an annual Civic Weekend when buildings are
open to the public. The oldest Masonic Hall has joined in and opened its
doors for about 10 years. Each year 1000 - 1500 visitors are shown round.
We have found it a good idea to invite selected groups rather than just
open the doors. This gives the opportunity to be well organised and
prepared so that the visitors can leave better informed.
We had a visiting party at the meeting of the Synod in York in 1987. It
made us realise that because of their fears, non Masons can actually be
frightened about entering a Masonic building. It was some time before they
relaxed enough to ask the questions they really wanted to put to us. Once
they relaxed we had a very interesting and enjoyable discussion.
The attitude of one lady visibly changed as the meeting progressed, when
she realised that all her fears were unfounded. As she left she said, "I wish
we had in the Church the same enthusiasm as you obviously have in
Freemasonry". At another Open Day the Archdeacon thanked us for the
invitation and said that it is a pity we had not been so open in the past, for
if we had, we would not have the problem we have today.
If people accept an invitation it means they are prepared to listen. Those
who do not, accept are the worry, as they know they do not like it although
they know nothing about it.
The points visitors raise are usually the same few. They worry that we are
a religion, about secrecy and that we only look inwardly and never
outwardly. A regular comment is that we are seen to be like the Mafia.
Provided that the guides are well prepared and that they give honest
answers, Open Days can remove the misconceptions that abound. If the
guide cannot answer a question, it is far better that he says so and finds
out from someone else rather than appear evasive.
We must remember that we really have nothing to hide and much of which
to be proud. A Freemason relies on a happy home life and there should
not be secrets between husband and wife. It is wrong that wives should
know nothing about what their husbands do in Freemasonry. I encourage
my Lodges to involve families much more. Several now invite their ladies
to join them for a meal after the Ceremony. This can be a sit down meal,
but many prefer a buffet as it allows more people to meet.
To undo problems of the past, I am convinced that we all must be better
informed about our aims, our objects and our achievements so that we can
discuss Freemasonry with confidence with non Masons. We can overcome
problems of misunderstanding if we all work at it together.
How open should a Freemason be?
by W Bro D.E.A. Jones, CBE, DL, LLB, PSGD
1 SECRECY AS A BASIS FOR CRITICISM
"The secrecy that surrounds Freemasonry has traditionally been its greatest
strength. Today it has become its own worst enemy". These are the
introductory sentences on the dust cover of Stephen Knight's book, "The
Brotherhood". Few, if any, Freemasons would regard Knight's work as a
fair and accurate portrayal of their organisation's nature and activities. Most
would nonetheless agree that the allegation in the second sentence is
worth of close scrutiny, especially in the light of comments by other non
Masonic individuals and organisations in recent years. A spokesman for
the United Reform Church, in a radio discussion following a relatively
tolerant report on Freemasonry, stated:.......... and the only judgemental
thing, I think, in the report is to say that there is really too much secrecy
about Freemasonry for it to fit easily into the Church picture". Other
reports, more deprecatory in tone, which were presented to the General
Synod of the Church of England and to the Methodist Conference
respectively contained censorious references to the existence and extent
of secrecy in Masonic affairs.
Freemasonry's most hostile critics undoubtedly regard the 'secrecy' factor
as the most potent weapon in their otherwise rather scanty armoury. Less
antagonistic individuals have frequently voiced their distaste at what they
deem to be an excessive emphasis on secrecy; some of them have
rejected Masonic membership for that reason. Typical expressions are:
"We had believed that the Masons were a secret organisation whose sole
aim was for the betterment of its own members" and: "I concluded that you
were a secret society and that is why I never joined".
Those who express their abhorrence of the 'secrecy' factor invariably use
the expression 'secrecy' in a highly pejorative sense in so far as
Freemasonry is concerned.
To them, its existence suggests that freemasons are engaged in unworthy
activities or are committed firmly to principles which are in some way
nefarious, and which they dare not confess. In other words, they see
Freemasonry as conspiratorial in character, and it should therefore be
impugned. They would view it as Shakespeare viewed those who
conspired to murder Caesar:
"Oh Conspiracy! Shamist thou to show
thy dangerous brow by night,
when evils are most free?
O then by day where wilt thou find a cavern
dark enough to mask thy monstrous visage?
Seek none, Conspiracy; hide it in smiles
2 THE ORIGINS OF MASONIC SECRECY
In considering the subject of secrecy in the Masonic tradition, it is pertinent
to recall that secrecy has frequently been the sine quo non for the
continued existence of numerous groups and organisations, Masonic and
otherwise, the purposes and principles of which could in no sense be
described as malevolent or contrary to the common good. This was the
key to survival in societies where oppression and persecution prevailed.
Papal bugs in the 18th Century, the threat of excommunication, and the
interdiction of Masonic assemblies in many European Countries, on penalty
of death in some instances, caused lodges to conceal their existence and
masons their Masonic identity. In more recent times, it will be remembered
that Freemasonry was reviled in Nazi Germany and Freemasons were
persecuted. Small wonder, then, that in those circumstances the rules of
secrecy were regarded as a practical necessity rather than as the product
of an ancient tradition.
That tradition is, of course, a long-standing one. Robert Macoy, the 19th
Century Compiler of a "Cyclopedia and Dictionary of Freemasonry" in
America, implied that Freemasonry was a secret society, relating it to "all
the great associations of antiquity the objects of which were to civilize and
improve the condition of mankind". Macoy dismissed criticism of the
"secrecy" element rather briefly and petulantly in the following words: "The
objection often urged against the Order on account of this peculiar feature
is too puerile to be considered". Other writers, of a more esoteric
disposition, regarded secrecy or mystery as inherent to Masonry, e.g. the
American writer Joseph Fort Newton who, in propounding the theory of the
Secret Doctrine, referred to it as "a hidden teaching understood only by
those fit to receive it". Yet, Newton concluded, there was no mystery in
Masonry, save the mystery of all great and simple things. Most
Freemasons would agree that the 'secret' or 'mystery' is in this sense not
A less pedantic and probably more realistic explanation of the origins of
Masonic secrecy lies in the fact that Freemasonry is an extension of the
stonemason's Guilds in the Middle Ages. As these were closed societies
of operative masons which jealously guarded their trade secrets they
established set ceremonies for the admission of apprentices and a system
of signs and passwords for the purpose of identifying as operative masons
those travelling workmen who belonged to other lodges.
3 THE FORMAL REQUIREMENTS OF FREEMASONRY IN RELATION TO
These are surprisingly few in number. They consist of.
i) The Antient Charges which, in relation to "Behaviour in the presence of
Strangers not Masons" command caution in a mason's words and carriage,
that the most penetrating stranger shall not be able to discuss or find out
what is not proper to be intimated and, in relation to "Behaviour towards a
Strange Brother," masons are told "to examine him........ that you may not
be imposed upon by an ignorant, false, pretender whom you are to reject
with contempt and derision and beware of giving him any hints of
Insofar as "Behaviour at home and in your neighbourhood" is concerned,
Freemasons are enjoined "to act as becomes a moral and wise man;
particularly not to let your family, friends and neighbours know the
concerns of the lodge, etc., but wisely to consult your own honour, and that
of your ancient brotherhood, for reasons not to be mentioned here".
ii) The Masonic Obligations. These, in the three Craft degrees refer to the
"secrets or mysteries" which are never to be revealed. Our ritual comes
closest to defining these in the Charge after Initiation, namely that secrecy
consists in an inviolable adherence to the Obligation - never improperly to
disclose any of the Masonic secrets entrusted to the Candidate. Those
secrets are, by strong inference, the appropriate signs, steps, grips and
words disclosed to the Candidate in the course of the ceremonies.
4 RECENT AFFIRMATIONS AND GUIDELINES
The United Grand Lodge has stated unequivocally that Freemasonry is not
a secret society. It had been argued long ago that only in a very
unimportant sense of the word could the Craft be called a secret society.
Anybody could belong to it, if he had the requisite qualities. There were
checks on indiscriminate admission, but in that sense many London clubs
could be called secret associations, since their doors were more jealously
guarded than those of a Freemason's lodge!
Nevertheless, like countless other Societies it is entitled to regard itself as
a private, as opposed to a secret, organisation. As such, it should not be
expected to disclose all its affairs, its discussions, or its internal procedures
to anyone who might demand them. Its constitution and rules are in any
event available to members of the public, as are numerous explanatory
pamphlets relating to its nature and principles.
Another guideline, perhaps more relevant to the subject of this paper, is the
United Grand Lodge's declaration that on inquiry for acceptable reasons,
Freemasons are free and will be proud to acknowledge their own
5 SECRECY OR OPENNESS - ATTITUDES REVIEWED
Many Freemasons, despite the well-publicised policies of the United Grand
Lodge relating to secrecy and privacy, remain doubtful as to the extent to
which they, as individuals, should discuss Freemasonry with "outsiders".
Some, nurtured for many years in a Masonic environment in which they
regarded absolute secrecy as the norm, will be reluctant to utter a word
about Freemasonry outside their immediate family circle. To them, the
smallest breach in the dams of secrecy and privacy would seem regressive
and unwarranted. Others, anxious to avoid being furtive, and aware that
a deceitful attitude on the part of the individual Masons may contribute to
public disdain of Freemasonry in general, might prefer a greater degree of
frankness than the expressed policies of the United Grand Lodge appear
Clearly, those aspects of secrecy which are an integral part of Freemasonry
must be preserved and protected. Nevertheless, an excessive aura of
secrecy going beyond that which the Masonic charges and traditions
require, and which may well brand Freemasons as evasive or shifty,
especially in relation to their membership of the Craft, should be
discouraged. Freemasonry does not - and need not - court popularity; at
the same time it cannot afford to allow its public image to be tarnished by
What guidelines would be appropriate in this respect? The following
suggestions are put forward for discussion. They do not transgress the
fundamental requirements of the Antient Charges and the Masonic
Obligations, and whilst they go a little way beyond the avowed policies of
the United Grand Lodge, they are not significantly inconsistent with them.
i) Freemasons, as a general rule, should be prepared to acknowledge, with
pride, their membership of the Craft. The United Grand Lodge allows them
to do so "on inquiry for acceptable (or respectable) reasons." This suggests
that a Freemason may not, in ordinary conversation, volunteer to a friend
that he is a mason. Might not this policy be described as "ultra-cautious"?
That policy suggests further that if asked the simple question "Are you a
mason?", a Freemason's retort should be "Why do you ask?", and before
replying in the affirmative he should judge the adequacy of the reason for
the enquiry. Should he regard the reason as inadequate or unacceptable,
his choice is to say "no" (a lie) or to refrain from answering, which is
tantamount to admitting (rather than claiming with pride!) membership of
the Craft. Should not the United Grand Lodge review, or at least re-word,
its policy in this respect? It is open to doubt whether the majority of
freemasons, in divulging membership, have acted within the strict terms of
that policy. Truth, after all is one of the Grand Principles on which the
Order is founded!
ii) Freemasons should always disclose their membership of the Craft in
circumstances where non-disclosure would be contrary to a legal
requirement or to accepted standards of conduct in public bodies. e.g. a
Councillor who is a Freemason should always declare his interest and
refrain from discussion or voting on any issue involving a Masonic interest,
such as a planning consent for the development of a Masonic building. He
should do so whenever a Masonic interest is likely to benefit or be
detrimentally affected. Police officers, too, should ask themselves if they
should not disclose their Masonic membership whenever they are required
to investigate matters involving fellow-masons.
iii) Freemasons should never divulge their Masonic membership - even to
one who is believed to be a fellow-mason - for purposes of personal profit
or personal advancement, or in the case of a criminal investigation, for the
purpose of securing unwarranted assistance from an officer conducting the
iv) Freemasons may engage in discussions about the general nature of
Freemasonry, its aims, and its principles. Indeed, a readiness to promote
its aims and principles in serious conversation with responsible individuals
should be commended. As the United Grand Lodge has put it, in ordinary
conversation there is very little in Freemasonry which may not be
v) Clearly, those secrets which are covered in the Masonic Obligations must
never be divulged or referred to. Non-masons who may be curious about
certain other matters, such as the nature or content of the Masonic
ceremonies should not have their curiosity satisfied. These, and indeed all
proceedings within lodges, are matters to be shared and enjoyed by
Freemasons alone: their revelation to nonmasons would undoubtedly
detract from their value. They, together with the secrets covered by the
Obligations, comprise much of "what is not proper to be intimated". (Antient
There are other actions and attitudes which Freemasons can take or adopt
to render Freemasonry more open and therefore more natural and
acceptable in the eyes of the public. Opening Masonic buildings to public
view, the use of Masonic dining facilities by the public on a commercial
basis, and the removal of some of the less desirable features of many
Masonic buildings such as bricked-up windows, excessive anonymity in
appearance, and general drabness are all matters which go hand in hand
with Masonic openness: they are more appropriate, however, for discussion
in another subsidiary paper.
How should Freemasons relate to the Public
by W Bro B Malkinson PAGDC
MY ANSWER: "By example and communication: by the public work they do
and by the written and spoken word".
MY ARGUMENT: Freemasons should relate to those who are not
Freemasons 'Today - Tomorrow - 2000" by a greater acknowledgement of
the value of communication in its many forms. Our secrets and our privacy
have long since gone: why labour under the misapprehension, as some still
do, that they are still with us? Let us now speak out.
Masonic principles and teachings make us aware of a quality of life that
would not be ours but for our membership of the Brotherhood and this is
often used to advantage in the community work in which many Freemasons
are involved. Both the work and those responsible for it should, where
appropriate, be made more widely known by better communication and by
an even greater commitment should circumstances fairly warrant. In this
way we could also relate from where our inner or differing strengths are
In a dignified way which reflects those things we hold dear Brethren should
emulate the work already being done by Grand Lodge and those Provinces
that have a Public Relations and Press Officer and seek wider recognition
of what our organisation stands for and in individual members do for
The national press now acknowledges some of the major non-masonic
work that is done. At local level items of genuine news value are printed
with increasing frequency. This does not cheapen the image of
Freemasonry: it enhances it and also lets those who do not already know
that the charitable work of Freemasonry is not just for Freemasons.
In a changing world some aspects of Freemasonry have been changed in
recent years. How we relate to the public must also change and that
change must be by more individual communication and more community
endeavour outside our Lodges.
Rather than be accused of a vested interest by those who know I once
worked within the media I asked several friends, all Freemasons involved
in public life, how they thought Freemasons should relate to the public.
This is what they had to say:
W BRO P CROSHAW (Insurance Broker)
Some Freemasons have difficulty in relating to the public which questions
its motives and ideals. Membership of Rotary, the Lions, Round Table and
similar organisations is readily acceptable because their work within local
communities is known and without mystery. This should be countered by
making the public more aware of the extensive non-masonic charity work
done by Freemasons with, perhaps, the recipients of the larger donations
making suitable acknowledgement. We do receive regular information of
what monies are distributed but there appears to be a reluctance and
suitable opportunity to discuss them. This reluctance is because the
adverse publicity in recent years has suggested Freemasons are elitist who
collaborate with each other in business life to the exclusion of others. The
support for each other is part of our teaching, it will exist but no more so
than within any other organisation or indeed sports and social club.
Adverse publicity follows the secrecy inherent in the Craft. The work within
our ceremonies should continue to be so. We are not a secret society but
a Society with secrets and membership of it should not be confidential.
Unless we are more open in this regard recruitment to our ranks will
continue to be difficult.
W BRO J A DANIELL (Service Industries - Manufacturing)
Brethren should at all times appear to others to be just and upright
ensuring that the image of Freemasonry is not reported as a secret Society
which itself breeds fear of the unknown. It should, however, acknowledge
that like many service organisations it is a society with things it wishes to
Those who are not Masons should be made aware where possible of the
many charities, large and small, that are supported by Freemasonry and
made aware, not by vast advertising campaigns but by word of mouth or
in the news columns of local newspapers. It is important to stress that
while we support our own charities a vast number of those in receipt of
monies are often not masonically connected.
Freemasons should make sure that it is more widely known that
Freemasonry is not regarded as a substitute to religion but that it is based
on belief in a Supreme being, which in many faiths is interpreted as God.
W BRO G F HODSON (Chief Fire Officer)
The ideals of Freemasonry have ever been and will always continue to
inculcate into its members the philosophy of a spiritual, moral and
philanthropic way of life that will help to promote the highest possible
standards of the manner in which they conduct themselves towards the
world and their fellow creatures. It is not sufficient merely to proclaim to the
general public and those who are not Freemasons that the principles and
tenets of Freemasonry which we try to incorporate into our general way of
life are necessary but we must show to the world not just by words but by
our actions and the very way we live and conduct ourselves in our daily
lives that by so doing we are endeavouring to try in some small measure
to make ourselves better persons and the world a better place in which to
W BRO J M MOREHEN (Practical and Scholarly Musician)
In our public relations we should remember that we are often highly
respected for our charitable work, which is usually imperfectly understood,
yet highly suspected for our privacy, often misconstrued as 'secrecy' which,
too, is often misunderstood. Like many minority groups we are rarely
observed and perceived with total impartiality.
And so, when we meet a Mason or a non-Mason alike we should behave
as though to a Brother for even if he is not, he may tomorrow experience
the joys of our Masonic fellowship. Even if he never participates in our
fraternity, this does not make him in anyway unworthy of our Order. Many
of us sought Freemasonry because men we knew and respected we
understood to be Masons. Can we claim that, by our comportment, we
have induced others to seek the Craft?
We should always remember that through our words and deeds we speak
and act for several million members of our Order.
W BRO E H M SEAWARD (Civil Servant)
Freemasonry is not a society apart, it is a part of society. It represents
stability and integrity in a constantly changing world. Sadly this is not the
impression held by a substantial number of the general public. For too
long too many of our members have hidden behind a pseudo secrecy
which has put a barrier between ourselves and the public. Only by
adopting a positive approach can we avert suspicion. It is unlikely that a
high profile publicity campaign would of itself arouse much public
enthusiasm towards us. It would be better tenaciously to use all
opportunities to show what Freemasonry is and does and to combat the
mischievous attacks made on us.
We need to be seen publicly to be continuing and expanding our help to
non-Masonic charitable organisations and to gain publicity from joint
ventures with them. We must emphasise our insistence on high levels of
integrity in our members and similarly our intentions to disbar those who
deliberately flaunt our principles. Above all we must have the courage of
our convictions and be willing to show the public how these convictions
can effectively relate to life today.
What is the "Mature Age" for a Freemason?
By W Bro. J.M.Hamill, PJGD
Librarian and Curator of Grand Lodge
In the questions between the First and Second Degrees in the English Craft
rituals the candidate is asked:
Who are fit and proper persons to be made Masons?
to which he responds:
Just, upright and free men, of mature age, sound judgement and strict
In various other parts of the three Craft ceremonies there are references to
"mature age" but nowhere is a definition of that phrase given, although the
candidate signs a declaration stating that he is of "the full age of twenty-one
years" and verbally confirms that fact in lodge. To my mind that is correct,
and the phrase "mature age" forms what might be called a calculated
ambiguity, something which occurs with great regularity in the Constitutions
and other official documents in England. Why calculated ambiguity? I think
because there has always been a recognition in English Freemasonry that
whilst our basic principles and tenets - our essential nature - cannot be
changed, there are many customs and practices which can be changed,
and at times must be changed if Freemasonry is to remain a valid and
contributing part of the society in which it exists. What often appear to be
tablets of stone are usually man made rules susceptible to change as
society changes. Ambiguity may be anathema to Masonic constitutionalists
but often is the means of saving a great deal of Grand Lodge and
Committee time in changing those tablets of stone into workable rules.
Mature age is a perfect example of changeable custom in Freemasonry, not
an immutable landmark. From the evidence of surviving By Laws of
English lodges in the 18th century it would appear that then mature age
was 25 years. At some point in the 18th century the Constitutions and
Minutes of both of the English Grand Lodges then existing are silent on
when - the age for candidates' entry dropped to 21 years, and has
remained at that point ever since, although the MW The Grand Master has
always had authority to grant dispensations to initiates under 21 years of
age in special circumstances.
In other Grand Lodges the age of entry for candidates has settled at 21
years, though in some with the change in the legal age of majority their
Constitutions have been altered to allow entry, without dispensation, at 18
years, the new age of majority. This has often been done on the basis that
as 18 year olds have the right to vote, are capable of being taxed, and may
be called up into the armed services in time of war they should therefore
be entitled as a right to petition for admission into Freemasonry at that age.
Those are false analogies.
When Freemasonry was organising itself there was no universal suffrage;
England was in the happy situation of being ignorant of income tax (a ruse
by William Pitt the Younger to pay for the Napoleonic Wars); anyone could
be conscripted into service in time of war, and with life expectancy being
short it was not unusual for 14 and 15 year old boys to be pressed into
service. Nor does seeking for analogies in our operative forebears work.
Apprenticeship in any craft usually started at 14 years and lasted for a
period of seven years, the apprentice being at 21 years well trained and
mature enough to work as a craftsman himself.
Concepts of maturity, then, are subject to change according to society's
views. How then would we define maturity in Masonic context? The Oxford
English Dictionary defines mature as being "complete in natural
development, ripe; with fully developed powers of body and mind, adult;
(of thought, intentions, etc) duly careful and adequate".
What Freemasonry requires of candidates is that they not only be physically
adult but should also have sufficient intellectual maturity to be able to
a. the seriousness of the step that they are taking
b. the principles and tenets of the Craft.
c. moral standards
d. the relationship between their duty to Freemasonry and their duties to
God, the law, and society in general.
Any specialist in human biology or sociology can demonstrate how the
average age for physical maturity has been dropping in this century. The
same cannot be said for intellectual or moral maturity. There are some who
are physically mature who may never be mentally mature, others may be
physically mature in their teens but not reach mental maturity until their mid
or late twenties.
A base line obviously has to be established to act as bar to over eager
fathers introducing their sons at too early an age. Twenty one years of age
would seem to be the ideal average as that is the age at which most have
completed their education and should therefore have the maturity of mind
to make serious decisions. But the arbiters of "mature age" are surely the
lodge committee who interview the candidate. By their questions they
should be able to assess not only the candidates innate worth but also
whether or not he is mature enough to comprehend what Freemasonry
means and how he will be expected to act as a Freemason.
FREEMASONS AND CHARITY
by R.W.Bro. Col. G.S.H. Dicker P.G.M. Norfolk (and member of the Bagnall
It is quite impossible in a short paper to cover this vast subject adequately.
Traditionally, Freemasons and Charity have always been inextricably linked.
Without Charity Freemasonry would be meaningless.
Prior to 1973 there were four principal Masonic charities, the Royal Masonic
Institution for Girls (RMIG), founded in 1788, the Royal Masonic Institution
for Boys (RMIB), founded in 1798, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution
(RMBI), founded in 1842, and the Royal Masonic Hospital (RMH), founded
in 1920. There was also the Fund of Benevolence, administered by Grand
Lodge, and many other smaller charities within Provinces, Districts and
individual Lodges, and within other Masonic orders.
Then in 1971 the Grand Master appointed a Committee under the
chairmanship of R W Bro the Hon. Mr Justice Bagnall to review the whole
operation of charity within the context of Freemasonry. This Committee
reported in December 1973.
Following the publication of the Bagnall Report a number of changes took
place. The RMIG and RMIB combined into the Masonic Trust for Girls and
Boys (MTGB). The Boys' School a Bushey was closed, and the Girls'
School at Rickmansworth became financially independent, with entry no
longer restricted to children of Freemasons. The MTGB took on the
responsibility for those children of masons who needed help, paying not
only school fees at Rickmansworth and other schools, but also
maintenance costs where appropriate. This arrangement has been highly
successful - the Rickmansworth Masonic School flourishes, with about 650
girls of whom 470 are boarders, and the MTGB looks after more than 1400
As a direct consequence of the Bagnall Report, the Fund of Benevolence
was succeeded by the Grand Charity, which differed from its predecessor
in a number of ways. It is financed from two main sources. It holds an
annual festival, and there is what seems like a compulsory levy, which is
expressed as a contribution; this at present is not less than 3.00 pounds
from each brother of a London Lodge, and 2.50 pounds from each brother
in a Province. It is open to Lodges to make larger contributions if they so
wish. No such contribution is payable by a brother in a Lodge overseas.
The Grant Charity makes substantial payments to petitioners, as did the
Fund of Benevolence, and to other Masonic charities, and it also distributes
over 1 pounds million a year to non-Masonic charities.
A further major change following the Bagnall Report was the merger of the
RMBI and the RMH into the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and the Sick.
This was not so successful. After a few years there was a de-merger, so
that the RMBI reverted to its original practice of looking after the elderly, in
15 Homes throughout the country, and by way of direct annuities to
Freemasons and their families with limited resources. The RMBI currently
cares cs for over 1900 people by way of financial assistance with everyday
living expenses, and some 900 are looked after in the Homes.
The RMH has not had a happy history in recent years. Bagnall forecast
problems, and in 1984 a further Committee under the chairmanship of R W
Bro the Hon. Mr Justice Drake reported that the Hospital was no longer
providing the best way for the Foundation to fulfil its role, nor was it
financially viable, and recommended that it should be disposed of, the
proceeds of sale, together with other easting assets, being used to provide
a fund from which assistance would in future be made to eligible needy
sick Freemasons and their families. Although an attractive offer was
received, a proposal to sell the Hospital was rejected, and the Hospital has
continued to function, although its operating losses have been heavy. In
1990 plans were announced to create a new structure. The Hospital was
to be managed by a newly formed company, The Royal Masonic Hospital
Limited, which would presumably lease the premises from the RMH. The
company was to be self financing, with all fees being paid in full. At the
same time the old Samaritan fund, which had formed part of the funds of
the RMH but had run out of money, was replaced by a new RMH Samaritan
Fund, which is quite separate from the Hospital. The intention was, and
indeed stiff is, that the New Masonic Samaritan Fund (NMSF) should
support sick and needy masons and their dependants wherever they may
be. The objects of the new Fund are wider than those of the old, and the
benefits are not limited to patients at the Royal Masonic Hospital. It is
intended that, as money becomes available, the Fund will be able to extend
its work to relief generally based on the interests and needs of its
But there are problems. The NMSF has started from scratch, and needs
to raise a substantial amount of long term capital by way of endowment, in
addition to money to run its operations from the start. It remains to be
seen how far the NMSF will be able to go. From time to time consideration
has been given to the establishment of a "Masonic sick fund", but this has
generally been thought not to be practicable as an open ended project. In
1989 the Committee chaired by R W Bro I R Bryce recommend that
although a national fund was not a viable proposition, every attempt should
be made to extend the scope of the (then) Samaritan Fund. This has been
started with the formation of the NMSF. Both the Drake Report and the
Bryce Report clearly had in mind that there would only be limited resources
available for helping sick and needy Freemasons.
Indeed, it has to be accepted that there is, and always will be, a limit to the
amount that can be raised within masonry for charitable purposes. Bagnall,
in a supplementary report not generally published, made the following
"We conclude by reiterating that the funds for the support of Masonic
charity are and will be limited. In modern jargon there is one "cake" to be
shared. It will be more and more difficult to increase the size of the cake:
indeed we think that the size will certainly diminish in terms of purchasing
power, and possibly in absolute terms. We think that it must be an
obligation of all Freemasons, and particularly those who have a voice in the
control and management of the present Charities, to do their utmost to
ensure that Masonic charitable funds are devoted to giving relief where it
is most needed and that the costs of providing that relief are reduced to a
As regards the size of the "cake" referred to by Bagnall, it is not possible
to be precise, particularly because of the variations from year to year
through the festival system. However it is worth recording that in 1972,
immediately prior to Bagnall, the total annual donations from members of
the Craft to the principal charities were estimated at 2.2 million pounds, and
the average for the five years up to and including 1972 amounted to 1.8
It is difficult to assess what they are today, but a rough estimate, based on
the last available accounts, is 9 million pounds.
Even if this current estimate is not quite accurate it does bear out what
Bagnall suggested, before the days of high inflation. In January 1972 the
RPI stood at 21, and in January 1992 it was 1355, so that prices have
increased by a factor of 6.4. Applying this factor to the 1972 total of, say,
2.0 million pounds gives an amount of over 12.8 million pounds, which is
certainly well in excess of what is now being contributed by the Craft to its
charities. Another way of looking at the problem is to say that if each of
8,000 Lodges were to raise 1,600 pounds a year the total would amount to
12.8 million pounds, and this is the sort of figure which might be expected
based on 1972 levels.
The above estimated figures do not include amounts raised within
Provinces and Districts, and within individual Lodges, for their own
Charities. Other Masonic Orders, notably the Mark Benevolent Fund, also
raise, and spend, money for charitable purposes. Most, if not all, of these
make contributions to non Masonic charities.
Mention has been made of the Festival system. Traditionally the three
Institutions (RMIG, RMIB and RMBI) held annual Festivals, but the RMH did
not. Now there are annual Festivals in aid of the MTGB, RMBI and the
Grand Charity, but not for the NMSF. There are suggestions that the NMSF
should hold an annual Festival. Festivals are planned, after consultations
between the three Charities concerned, some ten years ahead, so that
although a period of 4 - 7 years may be officially stated as the gestation
period for a Province to support a Festival, in practice at any one time there
are up to 30 Provinces working towards Festivals. Of the remaining 17
several are too small to provide direct support for Festivals, and London
only rarely does so as an area, although London Lodges, support for
Provincial festivals is considerable.
It is mainly because of the variations in size of the Provinces that it is
difficult to assess the total amount raised annually.
Have we got our priorities right? At present the Charities vie against each
other for support, with varying degrees of success. Each Charity can do
with more money, and there is no limit to the amount which would be
welcomed by non-Masonic charities, both at home and by those dealing
with relief for overseas emergencies. Perhaps it is time to consider again
some of the Terms of Reference of the Bagnall Committee:
1. To consider in the light of present economic and other circumstances
whether the Charities are serving the interests of the Craft and achieving
their several charitable purposes in the best possible manner.
2. To consider the several methods at present adopted for raising funds for
the purpose of each of the Charities and whether any additional or
alternative method or methods could be adopted.
3. To consider whether competition between the Charities in seeking funds
or otherwise is in the best interests of the Craft and the Charities.
Are Masonic charitable funds being raised in the best possible way, and are
they devoted to giving relief where it is most needed? These are the
questions which we should be asking ourselves in 1992.
Masonic Charities - the way ahead?
i) Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution
by Miss Jane Reynolds, Chief Executive Officer, RMBI
The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution has provided services for older
Freemasons and their dependants since 1842, concentrating latterly on the
provision of mainly registered Residential Care accommodation (with some
registered Nursing accommodation) for about 900 people in 15 Homes in
England and Wales, and Annuities to approximately 1,900 people on very
low incomes. More peripherally, it operates two Funds - The Good
Neighbour Fund, to pay for holidays, and the Victor Donaldson Fund, to
assist financially with repairs to Annuitants' own properties.
The arrival of the new Chief Executive in November 1991 coincided with a
period of substantial change for the Institution, to adapt to the changing
needs of Residents to comply with ever-increasing legislation and to
develop existing services to be responsive to expressed needs from, and
on behalf of, those Freemasons and their dependants wishing to remain in
their own homes for as long as possible and practicable.
The Chief Executive's first and immediate task was to get a firm grip on her
Subsequently, a number of initiatives are being launched which will help
shape our strategy for the medium to long-term by testing fresh
approaches to care, and providing new information.
Most of the Homes are very large, with the scope and perhaps the need to
be subdivided into smaller sub-units to be commensurate with current
patters of care provision.
Not all the Homes have registered Nursing accommodation within them.
A rolling programme has been set up to tackle this. There is a likelihood
that more beds in the other Homes will need to be registered for Nursing
Care as time goes by, and Residents become more frail, in order to meet
the Institution's stated aim of providing care for Residents until the end of
their lives. There are both significant capital and revenue consequences
of this need: the staffing levels in the Homes are, by and large, barely
adequate at the present time, even when a large percentage of Residents
are still fairly capable.
There is concern about some low occupancy levels of some of the Homes.
Procedures are now in place to accelerate the procedure from referral to
the individual taking up a place. Other strategies may need to be devised
to fill empty Beds, or, alternatively, consideration will need to be given to
deciding upon a different use for the empty space in the Buildings in
The Institutions key objectives are:
- To strive vigorously to provide the highest possible standards of care.
- To ensure occupancy levels in the Homes exceed the current levels,
accelerating the processing of referrals and utilising virtually all the beds,
allowing only the minimum to be kept to ensure flexibility.
- To operate the Homes at levels that achieve an appropriate recovery of
running costs from Residents' Fees.
- To ensure that staffing levels are commensurate with Residents' needs.
- To use the Homes as bases for new services - supporting people in their
own homes - that will provide added value.
- To ensure that the workforce is appropriately skilled to undertaken the
work, and that the staff feel valued by the Organisation.
- To run the Institution as efficiently as possible.
- To be responsive to changing needs.
To achieve these objectives, there are a number of major programme
- achieving a better balance between Sheltered Accommodation,
Residential Beds and Nursing Beds.
- improving communication with the Provinces to identify unmet needs.
- establishing close cooperation with our Statutory colleagues in the District
Health Authorities and Social Services Departments.
- demonstrating openness to other views and influences.
- expanding into outreach services to support people in their own homes.
- developing staff to meet changing needs.
A Business Plan is being prepared; delivering it will require the Institution
to manage change, in many cases significant, over the full range of our
responsibilities. During this period, good communications will be essential,
to keep staff, Residents, Annuitants and the Provinces informed of what we
are doing and why. With efficient and effective management, we are sure
that the Institution can face the many challenges that lie ahead with
Masonic Charities - the way ahead?
ii) The Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys
by W Bro Col R K Hind PSGD, Secretary MTGB
The Trust exists for the relief of poverty and advancement of education of
any child of the family of a Freemason considered to be in need. There are
no upper or lower age limits for these children and it is a principle that each
child shall be supported until preparation for a working life has been
completed. This prime task having been financed then authority exists to
assist the education of any child, whether or not the child of a Freemason.
This latter task has been discharged by answering appeals from
non-Masonic charities operating in the same field of relief, for children in
distressed and handicapped circumstances, where it can be established
that funds so disbursed are for direct application to a child.
The most recent example of this latter form of relief is the joint venture with
the Grand Charity in providing funds for the M W the Grant Master's
Anniversary project, the construction of a village for the mentally
handicapped. The Trust is making its largest donation so far to
non-Masonic charity, 1/2 million pounds to provide the educational and
training facilities in this CARE village.
Throughout all the changes in policy, management, and scale of relief, that
have taken place in the life time of the former separate Institutions for Girls
and Boys and now the Trust, the aim has remained constant for over two
hundred years, to prepare the child for a working life. It follows that the
length of time under the protection of the Trust can be considerable and
the average is now in excess of eleven years.
The most significant change which took place on 1 January 1986 when the
former Institutions merged with the MTGB, which then became the one
operative charity concerned with children, was the ability to apply relief to
a wider Masonic family, to the child of the family of a Freemason, that is to
say, any child supported by a Freemason as though that child were his
own, and found to be in need.
On the day the Trust became operative, a total of 366 girls and 390 boys
came under its protection from the former Institutions and the direct
support costs of those children and young people in that first year totalled
2.3 million pounds. On 1 May 1992, there were 799 girls and 796 boys
under its protection at a forecast cost in the year of 6.4 million pounds.
The growth in number of children under the Trust's protection, from 756 in
1986 to the current level of 1,595, is due to a continually increasing number
of new petitions. In the first year of operation there were 168 new petitions,
a very high figure in relation to the number of children already under care.
In the succeeding years the level of new petitions has been increasing at
a rate of nearly 10% per annum. These factors have resulted in the number
of children under protection more than doubling in 6 1/2 years, an average
growth in numbers of near 13% per annum compound.
Growth in numbers and costs can be attributed to the following factors:
- Increased awareness within the Craft of the relief available to children of
the larger Masonic family.
- Increase in the level of distress following the death of Freemasons having
children in education coupled with the greater educational opportunities
evadable and needed to fit children for a working life in this increasing
- Increase in life expectancy of and facilities for children having learning
difficulties through mental or physical handicap.
- Increase in refinance on charitable relief to supplement State support for
those in distressed circumstances.
- Increase in the rate of desertion by fathers having children of school age.
- Inflation which affects all support costs in the home; food, clothing,
materials, equipment and travel.
- The equal opportunities to be offered both girls and boys resulting in a
common level of support and education costs.
- The psychological benefits in maintaining children at the school which
they attended before the death of the father.
During the period, from 1986 to the present time, the average cost of each
child's support has increased by nearly 7% per annum compound. When
coupled with the increased numbers, this has resulted in an annual cost
increase to the Trust of nearly 20% per annum, as evidenced by the
increase from 2.3 million pounds in 1986 to the forecast cost of 6.4 million
pounds in 1992.
On the other side of the balance sheet without allowing for possible
reductions in donations due to the economic situation the future Festivals
for this Trust to the year 2000 will produce an anticipated level of income
well below that experienced in the last decade due to the size of the
Provinces concerned. To this must be added a reduced level of investment
income due to usage of capital reserves. It is forecast that within two years
capital reserves will have to be used to sustain the present level of
expenditure and should the growth in petition cases continue the effect on
resources will become serious.
It was to meet the expressed wish of the Craft that relief was extended to
the wider Masonic family in 1986. Experience in the brief 6 1/2 year life of
the Trust directly influences the "Way Ahead" in the next decade. The
growth in numbers and costs and the anticipated reduction in income and
their influence on the application of the principle - applied for over two
centuries - to prepare the distressed children of Freemasons in need for a
working life, are the factors dominating planning activity in the Trust.
Masonic Charities - the way ahead?
iii) The Grand Charity
by R W Bro Cdr M B S Higham PJGW, Secretary Grand Charity
1 The Grand Charity came into being on 1 January 1981. It succeeded the
Board of Benevolence, which had descended from various committees
formed by Grand Lodge since 1727 for the relief of distressed Freemasons.
2 The Grand Charity was intended as a charity which could be
outward-looking and flexible, which could respond to any charitable need
(not just Masonic) and which could at the same time continue as a first
priority to help needy Freemasons and their dependents.
Comment. The aims could hardly be wider in a Masonic charity.
3 The Grand Charity derives its income from four sources:
a) donations and legacies - unpredictable
b) covenants - more predictable, and steady
c) dividends and interest - varying with the state of the stock market, and
deriving from a capital fund which is not large
d) Festivals - varying from year to year, roughly in proportion with the size
of the Festival Province.
Comment: These sources are like those of other Masonic charities, and
their characteristics will be familiar.
A fifth source is the Grand Charity's own -
e) contributions from Lodges, increased from 1 January 1992 to the rate of
3.00 pounds per annum for each member of a London Lodge. (2.50
pounds in Provincial Lodges). These replace contributions from Grand
Lodge's Fund of General Purposes to its Fund of Benevolence, capitation
fees which until 1981 were extracted painlessly and almost unnoticed from
Lodges as part of their annual dues to Grand Lodge.
Comment: The basic contribution is not large, but the method of collection
is sometimes misunderstood. The change in 1981 was to emphasise the
Grand Charity's constitutional independence and it may matter less now if
the method were to revert although there might be tax repercussions.
Either method involves all Freemasons in the Craft's central charity.
4 Petitioners Expenditure on the relief of needy Freemasons and their
dependants is the first call on the Grand Charity's funds.
Comment: This will continue
5 Contributions from a central charity to other Masonic charities were part
of the Bagnall Committee's plan, and the Grand Charity has provided funds
to help the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Masonic Foundation for
the Aged and the Sick and the New Masonic Samaritan Fund start their
administrations; grants to the Royal Masonic Hospital and Masonic Housing
Association, and grants or loans to Provinces to start or otherwise help with
retirement homes or sheltered housing.
Comment: This form of assistance will continue, but guidelines on housing
may have to become more fierce.
6 NON-MASONIC CHARITY
Apart from providing, as did the old Board of Benevolence, relief for natural
disasters at home and overseas, the Grand Charity has made major grants,
often as a series over five years, to non-Masonic charities, and often (as in
grants for combatting drug dependence for hospices and for helping
mentally handicapped adults) in advance of support from the government
or the general public.
Comment: This part of the rand Charity's activities shows that Freemasons
care for other apart from their own people, and play a responsible part in
identifying and meeting the needs of society at large.
7 RELIEF CHEST SCHEME
Since 1986 the Relief Chest Scheme has pooled charitable funds so that
Lodges and Provinces achieve maximum return on investments while
retaining control over expenditure. One in four London Lodges; one in 6
1/2 Provincial Lodges, one in 5 Provinces have chests.
Comment: Pooling resources without losing control is obviously sensible.
Growth in numbers involved is steady, but should be encouraged.
8 GENERAL COMMENT
Expenditure should not outpace income, or the capital base becomes even
smaller. The Grand Charity's spending on petitioners has for the last seven
years exceeded contributions from Lodges, and in 1991's recession was
nearly twice as much. Festivals are now an important source of funds for
the Grand Charity (as well as providing valuable contacts with members)
but income from them fluctuates. Without a large capital base, the Grand
Charity relies heavily on contributions to balance its spending. One might
hope that the general level of spending has the Craft's approval - might the
Craft not also persuade itself that 5.75p a week per member of a London
Lodge or 4.8p a week in a Provincial Lodge was a little low?
Masonic Charities - the way ahead?
iv) New Masonic Samaritan Fund
by Bro. Lt Col S G Overton, Secretary NMSF
The main draft paper reviews the ethos and historical aspect of Masonic
Charities, rehearses the "cake" theory and identifies the diminishing buying
power trend of income generated within the Craft and Masonic Charities.
It also touches on the potential for conflict between Provinces and Masonic
Charities in fundraising activities. It neither seeks to present a radical
review with options and proposals for change, and how to manage it or
discuss the question of raising and allocating funds on a needs basis. It
is however a most useful and constructive document to stimulate
discussion. The 275th Anniversary Conference, therefore, needs to
consider the present situation and its problems, the basis of raising and
allocating funds and whether these require modification, re-structuring or
The principle requirement for providing charitable relief is surely First to
establish the need of the individual applicant within the parameters and
framework of the objects and criteria of the particular Fund concerned.
From this, the level of relief can be assessed and given. Similarly, at the
level of the Masonic Charities themselves, due regard must surely be given
to the comparative needs and requirements of each Fund/Charity and its
ability to generate and allocate sufficient funds for relief. These need to
take into account any special needs, eg. for capital reserves and resources,
as well as annual income requirement. The Charities should also be
regarded as a business in terms of efficiency and operational planning and
run accordingly. Thus the need assessment should be incorporated into
a short, mid and long term budget analyses taking into account the
expected demand, the cost and frequency of benevolence to be given, the
assets and resources already held, and the shortfall/requirement thereon.
It represents forecasts, comparisons, budgets, business plans and
maximising scarce resources. Thus the size of the "cake" and allocation
thereof should not be based arbitrarily on independent fundraising effort,
but a breakdown of the corporate Charities needs and equitable allocation
and distribution of resources using immediate, mid and long term
requirement forecasts. Moreover, if a quantitive assessment of demand is
taken by viewing the quarter of a million Craft members and their 2-5 million
dependants along with the four Charities on an age/life bar.
The New Masonic Samaritan Fund Charity can be identified as having a
PASt AND PRESENT
The Inception of the Fund arose from the financial difficulties experienced
by the Royal Masonic Hospital (RMH) and Old Samaritan Fund (OSF).
Dependence on both had declined within the Craft by 1990 due to the
establishment of excellent National Health Service and Private Hospital
facilities, with related after care services, throughout the domain, especially
in the far flung Provinces, i.e. Cornwall, Devon and Durham.
The Fund was thus incorporated on 28 November 1990 as an independent
Charity of equal status with her Sister Masonic Charities to provide support
and relief for sick, infirm and needy Freemasons and their dependants
suffering pain, hardship and distress. Relief is applied through a petitioners
process utilising Lodge and Provincial Almoners (or Provincial equivalents).
The criteria for relief is based on a medical need, financial hardship, lack
of availability of timely treatment through the National Health Service and
social/family need. Successful petitioners are funded at their most
appropriate and normally cost effective hospital/establishment, including the
RMH, acting as provider units on a countrywide basis. In the case of
overseas Districts, treatment may be in the UK or eventually provided under
local overseas arrangements where available.
From 1 August 1991 to the 30 April 1992 the NMSF supported 350
successful petition applicants at 80 different hospitals from Provinces
countrywide and Districts at a cost of 1.1 million pounds representing an
average of 3,142 pounds per case. This does not include the interim
arrangements funded by Grand Charity via NMSF for committed OSF
patients at the RMH between March and July 1991. Treatments have been
predominantly orthopaedic, eye cataracts, urology and heart by-pass, all
of which suffer from overlong NHS waiting lists. Demand on the Fund, still
in its infancy, can be expected to greatly increase in the future.
The Fund is currently endeavouring to enter into discussions with our sister
Charities in respect of interface petition case situations.
Funding for our applicants has come from the 2.75 million pounds accruing
from the Cornwallis Appeal (which had a target of 6 million pounds) and a
1 million pound start up grant from Grand Charity. Much of the latter was
used up on the OSF interim arrangements. The Appeal preparation time
and publicity was minimal before launch which has had the misfortune to
run concurrently with a severe recession. Hence, on this basis, the result
must be considered reasonably successful despite the fact that some funds
have also undoubtedly been held back due to initial confusion and concern
over the Fund's relationship with the RMH.
The critical problem facing the NMSF is identifying the source and
expediting the generation of sufficient income to fund our immediate, mid
and long term needs. The Fund considers it needs a minimum guaranteed
annual income budget of 2.5 million pounds, including operating costs, to
meet the level of applicants experienced so far. This incorporates paring
organisation costs to the minimum and maximising the effective, efficient
and economic use of assets and resources. The maximum amount of
monies must be devoted to benevolence. We can also expect, as
knowledge of the Fund increases (it is still very much in a start up phase),
the number of applicants, particularly dependants to increase. At the same
time, the cost of private treatment for medical, dental and health care will
continue to escalate. It is also unlikely, even with any additional
Government funding or management initiatives, NHS waiting lists will be
eradicated. The income accruing from the OSF, the expenditure of which
has been controlled by the NMSF since August 1991, has rapidly
diminished as covenants have tailed off and have either not been renewed
or have been re-allocated elsewhere. The Provinces and Charities vie for
funds, with potential conflicts only averted by the disciplines imposed by
the Festival system, from which the NMSF is omitted. The latter is a
serious disadvantage to the NMSF in comparison with her Sister Charities.
Thus, the NMSF has no dedicated source of funding. The NMSF must be
considered in potential crisis!
The question is how do we identify and secure our slice of the cake? Will
this be realised through an arbitrary allocation of resource based on
individual Charity Appeals effort in a restricted market, or be based on an
agreed slice of the "cake"?
Will income raised meet our immediate annual operational requirements as
well as provide capital for investment to create reserves for future
beneficiaries? It may not! Certainly, and unlike the OSF, we can only spend
what we receive whereas pain, suffering and hardship, on the contrary,
cannot be turned on and off.
The present fundraising position of NMSF is largely based on the status
quo. Therefore, instead of assessing the overall requirements of NMSF
including its initial non-requiring capital needs, and working out how best
this can be raised, NMSF fundraising has been largely "grafted on" to the
established fundraising arrangements of the existing Charities. As a result
NMSF remains outside the capital and income raising benefits derived from
being within the Festival system. The Cornwallis Appeal was therefore
necessarily concentrated within London and on Provinces which had not
already undertaken Festival requirements or which were not committed to
local Provincial fundraising efforts. Now that the Appeal is over, there is
therefore, no ongoing arrangements so that Provinces are being requested
to consider short term one or two year appeals where they do not have
Festival requirements. These are subject to Provincial conflicting demands
and the stated proviso that the NMSF fundraising should not operate to the
detriment of the established fundraising of more financially secure and
income guaranteed sister Charities. We have no special rights in London.
Many in the Craft, anyway, believe that a London Festival would not work,
but that a direct Appeal may have some merit.
In the mid term, the short Festival approach may prove to be reasonably
successful in creating sufficient turnover income but not a capital reserve.
This could be a wildly over optimistic perception! Whatever, and in the
short term, (remember Festivals are planned over ten years in advance)
they will be difficult and costly to organise and manage relative to the
return. Even coupled with some commitment from London Lodges, this will
probably not, by itself, pragmatically meet the assessed need and financial
requirements for the next few years.
Many of the Provinces have expressed concern over the present
effectiveness of the Festival system. The time is seemingly ripe for a radical
review of utilising vision, imagination and candour. Recommendations,
when implemented, will take us into the next century and beyond. The
275th Anniversary Conference represents an ideal catalyst and opportunity
to embark on this venture. In the meantime, many find it difficult to
understand why the NMSF, being the newest Masonic Charity and most in
need, should not be treated on an equal basis by being brought
immediately into the Festival system as opposed to being left to fend for
itself in isolation. They believe that vested interests should not rule, rather
a comparison of needs dictate when cutting the cake. In the immediate
future, if it is to survive, the Fund will need to be supported by three or four
mini-festivals per year plus ad-hoc support from London.
What is the way ahead? What are the options? Is there any radical option
for change which will assure the future of all Masonic charitable elements
making up the "cake" including Provinces internal needs? How do we
negate rivalry and conflict? How best to manage change and in what time
The following ideas have been proposed for consideration:
1 That Festivals should be for a fixed period announced not more than 12
months before the commencement of the Festival.
2 That Festivals might be more frequent, eg. 4 year Festivals and spread
over all 4 major Masonic Charities (ie. tax benefit based).
3 Specific fundraising efforts should be directed at London Lodges both
generally and in groups.
4 That the Festival system might be more standardised with a percentage
of the funds raised, say 20%, available within the Province or at the
nomination the PGM and say, half to be a named Masonic Charity on a
rotational basis with the balance into a general Masonic "Foundation" for
allocation amongst the Masonic Charities or non-Masonic Charities based
on bids for grants based on need.
5 NMSF to be brought into the Festival system instead of Grand Charity,
but for a percentage of every Festival to go to Grand Charity with flexibility
for Grand Charity to make grants to assist Masonic and non-Masonic
Charities according to need.
Whilst many feel that the success of the Festival system can be attributed
to the appeal of the particular Masonic Charity for whom the Festival is
directed, others consider that it is the Provincial effort and the appeal by the
PGM and the Provincial Officers which achieves success. Against this,
some in the Province may wish to continue to support other Charities and
are therefore faced with a conflict of interest. It is considered, therefore,
that, if the Festival system includes some basis on which the funds raised
can be made available as part of the "the cake", then the Festival
fundraising can be seen, to that extent at least, to be capable of being
allocated equitably and fairly etc.
The benefit to the Craft is that the "cake" is seen in the whole, as
apportioned equitably and fairly on a needs basis, reserves, assets and
resources are maximised throughout and further income is generated
through centralised investment. Additionally, the Provinces, as the
fundraisers and providers, are involved in its use and allocation. Conflict
and competition is removed.
In conclusion, a four year "short" Festival on behalf of all Masonic Charities
has great appeal to all. No one wins, no one loses, benevolence (relief is
maximised, Masonic Charities become one large interrelated business plan,
and Masonic harmony is maintained within the Craft. The virtues of
wisdom, truth and brotherly love indeed!
The NMSF, in particular, was established by the Craft and is "in need". It
behooves the Craft to ensure success in that the Fund has a reasonable
and equitable means of fundraising to guarantee adequate income and
reserves to resource relief and benevolence for those in real need. Radical
change is appropriate. The time is right to implement it. The Conference
is well placed to consider and commence the process of change. Celer et
Masonic Charities - the way ahead?
Should Lodges do more for local charities?
by W Bro A C Gregory PJGD
Should Lodges do more for non-Masonic Charities? At first sight, one
would imagine that such a straightforward question would elicit one of two
simple answers, namely "yes" or "no", closer examination of the question
however, casts doubt on whether it is straightforward, or if the answer is
simple. An extremely interesting and lively debate could be initiated if the
topic was put to some of our lodges, particularly in some of the provinces:
and if put to the vote only a brave man would hedge his bets on the result.
This paper, therefore, is an attempt to present the argument for supporting
non-Masonic charities, and thereby provide an answer to the question in
the title which Freemasons in our Constitution will feel disposed to consider
and act upon.
Charity is of course one of the principal corner stones on which our Order
is built. When we "make" a Freemason it is stated in the North East
Cornerstone "Charge" that the candidate has "no doubt felt and practised
charity". In the same charge he is told that should he ever meet a brother
in distressed circumstances who might solicit his assistance, he should
"remember that peculiar moment when he was received into masonry" and
cheerfully embrace the opportunity of practising that virtue which he has
professed to admire.
Our candidate is left in no doubt as to where his charity should be directed,
namely to his brother. But who is his "brother"? When the allegorical
meaning of the working tools in the first degree are explained, he is then
told that he should spend part of the day "serving a friend or brother in time
of need". Who then, should be the recipient of his charity, his "friend" or his
"brother" if a choice has to be made? Many brethren will (and do) quote
their initiation ceremony when discussing the question of financial
donations at Lodge Committee meetings, and the expression "Charity
Begins at Home" means just that to many Freemasons who have, quite
rightly embraced the North East Cornerstone Charge directive. More than
one argument regarding the disposal of the Lodge Charity Account has
developed from such reasoning and there are Freemasons who will say
their donations to charity have been subjected to misappropriation if they
are given to a cause other than a Masonic charity.
It is conceivable that we have ourselves created the situation that can
cause a brother to vote against a donation to a non-Masonic charity.
History tells us that Freemasonry originated as part of a self help movement
amongst groups of local stonemasons: very likely the birth of trade groups
and philanthropic societies. This, coupled with our teaching in the first
degree, gives a powerful argument to the "Keep-it-in-the-family" faction.
However, the Masonic scholar can also present the supporters of
non-Masonic charities with historical arguments. In the first degree
ceremony the conspicuous Jacobs Ladder on the tracing board is referred
by A F A Woodford as "pointing to the connexion between earth and
heaven, man and god, and to represent faith in God, charity towards all
men, and hope in immortality". Not necessarily a strong argument, but one
which could be enlarged on by those experienced in debating circles.
It must be accepted that we live in a changing world, and changes there
have been and will continue to be in all facets of society, not least
Freemasonry. Chapter 9 in John Hamill's book "The Craft", presents an
excellent portrayal of the changes in Masonic charity since the formation of
Grand Lodge in 1717. Even changes he describes now require
amendment as the book was published in 1986, and there have been some
sweeping developments since then. The last two years (1990/91) saw the
birth of the New Samaritan Fund: and the references to the Royal Masonic
Hospital in Bro Hamill's book now bear witness to the fact that even in
1970, warning signals were on the horizon as to the hospital's future.
There is a salutary lessen to be learned from the RMH "experience" and one
which can add weight to the argument for supporters of non-Masonic
The findings of the Bagnall committee, and the much more recent Bryce
Committee, have done (and are doing) much to update our charities and
how we administer them. The problems of the RMH should surely illustrate
that the monks we raise are better donated to those bodies which are "up
and running" and established and experienced in their particular field of
activity: and it is this argument which should do most to sway the vote in
favour of those lodges and brethren who support non-Masonic charities
In 1967 600,000 pounds was raised to form a trust fund for medical
research as part of the celebrations of the 250th anniversary of Grand
Lodge. Now, twenty five years on, we are to donate 2,550,000 pounds to
four charities active in the field of work for mentally handicapped adults, to
celebrate the 275th anniversary of Grand Lodge and the 25th anniversary
of our Grand Master's installation. Surely this donation will do much to
further the work of those who are experienced and established - especially
in a time of economic difficulties when all charitable organisations are
undergoing problems with regard to their income.
So to attempt our answer. We are all aware of the support which Grand
Charity gives to National organisations, and these figures and details are
circulated to every member of the Craft. Brethren are thus well aware of
how their donations to Grand Charity are dispensed. However, the
Provinces and Districts in their own way, help and support local
organisations, in addition to answering the numerous "one off" cries for
help. These can range from a hospital scanner unit appeal to help with a
donation for a new roof on the local scout hut. To help with local "natural"
disasters or some help with a Christmas party for senior citizens.
The author of this paper recently stood down as secretary to the second
largest province in the English Constitution. The Province has a Masonic
benevolent institution, a registered company which, in many ways,
developed along similar lines to the Grand Charity. R W Bro LeGendre
Nicholas Starkie was Provincial Grand Master from 1870/99 and his special
interest lay in the development of the original society. He was affectionately
known as it's "Father". The work of the institution is primarily for the relief
of those members of the Order and their dependents within the Province,
and it has it's own residential home for elderly masons and their wives,
widows and other dependent relatives. The Committee of Benevolence is
responsible for the relief of those in need, and the onward transmission of
petitions to Grand Charity and the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys if
additional assistance is necessary. Every year dependents are taken on
holiday, and the young people's committee ensures the welfare of
dependent children is not forgotten.
In recent years, however, the support of non-Masonic charities has become
a growing feature of the Institution - and by no means to the detriment of
the brethren and/or their dependents in the Province, who fall on hard
times. A fair comparison with Bro Hamill's description of the development
of Grand Charity in the last twenty years can be made at this particular
provincial level. Because of this growth in support of non-Masonic charities
at National and Provincial level, support within the lodges has automatically
ensued. Many Masters decide on a charity "project" at the commencement
of their year in office, rather like the local mayor: and a proportion of the
monies raised are donated to a local cause or causes.
Present and future generations of Freemasons are living in a world which
sees vast amounts of money donated through other National organisations,
television appeals, and the like: and they see their lodge as a "vehicle" to
exercise their own enthusiasm for fund raising in their own locality.
If we are to encourage our order to go forward into the next millennium with
an enthusiasm for caring and "serving friend and brother in time of need",
then surely there is a strong case for encouraging our Lodges to do more
for non-Masonic charities.
The emphasis, however, must be on encouragement and not direction.
The former will achieve both satisfaction and success. The latter approach
will create resentment, and thereby provide further fuel for our critics.