IT was interesting to read a news article in today’s Lougghborough Echo reporting local celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the first Masonic lodge in England.
In this article, the Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland David Hagger claims ‘integrity, fairness and honesty’ are the ideals of freemasonry.
I don’t doubt for a moment that this is how many individual Masons act in their everyday lives – but I would strongly question whether these values are representative of the craft at its higher levels.
The important point here is that of secrecy.
Clearly freemasonry is not a secret society by definition. We, the general public, know full well that it exists. But it is a society with secrets.
However many public events are run this year by local Masonic lodges – as highlighted again by Mr Hagger – we are not going to get anywhere near what happens higher up the pyramid.
This is because lower degree Masons are relatively clueless themselves about the nature of the organisation they belong to.
When I worked for the Echo, I spoke with some influential people about local freemasonry.
It was well known that membership flourished among the police, legal profession, financial sector, as well as property, medical and hospitality industries.
A fair few local councillors were Masons at that time. Attending meetings of Charnwood Borough Council, there were instances of ‘nudge, nudge’ on the press bench when certain elected officials left early – co-incidentally on the day and time when local lodges held their weekly meetings.
This could be viewed as reasonably innocent stuff, or was it? How many planning applications were determined at the Masonic Hall rather than the Town Hall? It’s not lost on me either that in last week’s report it was stated the latter, the home of Charnwood civic life, was a former base of the Masons.
Did solicitors consult each other behind closed doors? Were business contracts arranged or torn up because of loyalty to the Brotherhood?
Who knows? But the suspicion was definitely there.
You see, you can’t claim that an organisation founded on secrets is open and above board.
You can hand out cheques to every community organisation in the Borough, but that doesn’t make one iota of difference.
Nationally and internationally, some of the biggest names in the world – US Presidents, UK Prime Ministers, members of the Royal Family, all included, have been or are Masons.
Why would they bother joining a benevolent society that meets to hand out a few favours?
I’d suggest the general public is in danger of being hoodwinked here.
Perhaps local lodges are in danger of dying off as fewer folk these days have the time, inclination, or money to attend their banquets.
Enter an exercise in rebranding, aimed at burying the conspiracy theories – some ridiculous, others uncomfortably close to the truth – of the past.
If you think I’m way off the truth, attend one of the Masonic public events and put yourself forward as a member. Good luck ladies, unless you want to serve on tables!