When I was young I was aware that a family acquaintance was a Freemason but we never discussed the matter. It was all very secretive in the 1960s.
Through life I was aware of this mysterious fraternity but I knew nothing about it. In the early eighties I travelled to Scotland every week, for work, and I was asked if I would be interested in joining Freemasonry. As a hot-headed twentysomething young man I declined.
About seven years ago I visited a shop in Dover that I used regularly and saw a small group of men in white gloves and aprons standing next to a sign outside the building next door. It was the Masonic Hall. I had been to the shop many times and hadn’t noticed it.
So these were the mysterious Freemasons about whom I knew very little. They didn’t look very secretive, on the contrary, they were chatting to passers-by. Curiosity got the better of me so I read the sign which said they were having an open day, and I asked if I could look inside.
I was pleasantly surprised at how welcoming everyone was as they gave me a guided tour of the building. I was interested to hear what they told me as they showed me around but when I was shown inside the Lodge Room my feelings changed. I felt instantly comfortable and I thought (as I have since heard other people say) this is where I belong. Not secretive, just warm and welcoming.
I attended a couple of social evenings and was then asked if I would like to become a Freemason.
I was due to be initiated in January 2010 but because of heavy snow the initiation was postponed until May 13th. Six years later, in March 2016, I was elected by my fellow lodge members to be their Master for the ensuing year – the highest honour a lodge can bestow on any of its members. I will be installed into the Master’s Chair on May 14th.
It has been a rapid journey made easier by a lot of help and good advice, the best of which was to attend as often as possible the Lodges of Instruction where we learn about Freemasonry and rehearse our ceremonies. I believe that I missed only three or four in those six years and I always tried to get involved. Another piece of good advice regarding learning the ritual was to read it and understand it before beginning to commit it to memory.
By taking these two pieces of advice to heart I was able to join the ladder of progression through the lodge offices. I don’t claim to be the greatest ritualist (far from it) but it does mean that I have the confidence to progress.
I am always very happy to help out if I am able to and when I heard that the Kent Museum of Freemasonry in Canterbury was looking for someone to record some voiced commentaries, I offered to help. I was pleased to do so, spent an evening in a recording studio, and yes, I’m proud to say it’s my voice that can be heard on the audio-visual systems in the museum.
My Mother Lodge is Septem No 7788 in Dover but in 2013 I was invited to join The Entente Cordiale Lodge No 9657. It also meets in Dover and, unusually, includes some French Freemasons among its members who travel across the Channel to attend its meetings. I happily joined the lodge and I am currently its Senior Deacon.
That’s my story so far, but I’m sure that there is more to come………