Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The wisdom of Solomon

The side of the old Masonic Hall in Bradford on Avon - how secretive can you get?

I am on the end of a long line of London Freemasons, but I am almost the only male member on my father's side not to have actually been one. I decided to become a real one instead.

My father stopped attending the meetings years before he kicked the bucket, but I remember him and my mum getting dressed up to attend the annual ball in the Main Lodge in London's Great Queen Street (no relation to me, John, before you say it). I still have his black tie AND white tie outfits with kid gloves, but haven't as yet worn them. Maybe I'll wear the white tie when I pick up my knighthood from Buckingham Palace, or maybe at the gala evening for my 'Lifetime's Achievement' award.

Before they actually left me in the house alone with my murderous sisters for the evening, there would be a sense of anticipation and excitement, and the kitchen would be filled with the scent of 'Mitsouko' perfume emanating from my mother on one of her rare evenings out. In the morning, there would be fresh, crystalised fruits in the fridge which my father had snitched for me before he left the banquet.

He stopped being an active mason because - he said - it had turned from a charity into an old boy's network which existed purely to line the pockets of a handful of corrupt policemen and business men, and he refused to go cap in hand to them when he hit a bit of financial trouble in the early 60s.

You can take a little tour of the Grand Lodge in London these days, and right next to the young, black woman on the front desk, there is a wooden mason's mallet dating back to early Egypt, sitting in a glass cabinet - still usable after several thousand years. Another part of the exhibition features a lot of medals and regalia made from old tin cans. All this stuff was made by British prisoners of war so that they could continue their secretive practices whilst incarcerated by the Germans and Japanese. Boys always like to play at something - in my boyhood, we used to pretend to be prisoners of war.

I (unlike my brother) was never interested in becoming a freemason - I just couldn't see the point. I can see how they started though.

A lot of secrets are locked up in the massive stone edifices which are scattered around the world, and have been since the days of King Solomon the Wise. The Great Pyramid is a calendar, for instance. Anyone who could measure time accurately could rule the world. The race to invent an accurate clock was started by seamen - there is no good navigation without accurate time-keeping, and no treasures to be looted without good navigation.

I am still benefitting from the ancient secrecy. An old friend of mine once looked at a complicated piece of stone I was working on, and said, "I wouldn't know where to start."

I replied, "Yes you would. You just wouldn't know where to finish."


  1. Our dad was a freemason Tom and he never missed one meeting.....he was 91 when he died so, that was a lot of meetings. My sister and I always remember him reading his little book behind his newspaper and, when we asked what it was he said that if he told us, he would be found the next day in the gutter with his throat cut !! Off he would go on a Friay night with his little case filled with his regalia. I think that he just loved the camaraderie and the social side of it all. We went to a few ladies nights when he was Worshipful Master. My sister, and I and our children all had to bite our lip when they sang ....'and here's to the ladies' !

  2. I was once approached by a friend, who I knew to be a trouser roller, and told that I would never be ASKED if I'd like to join; it was up to me TO ASK to join. I didn't!

  3. Are/were Freemasons actually stone masons? I know they use the square and compass symbol but I never quite understood the connection. My husband's Great Grandfather was a stone mason but not a Freemason as he was an Irish Catholic. Strangely enough he and his brothers worked on the Anglican Catherdral in Liverpool. Well maybe not that strange:) I don't believe the Catholic church is his day would have allowed membership nor do I think the Freemason's would have pursued his membership.....I don't know.

  4. Freemasons are stone masons but with a trowel in their tool kit Mary Ann (they do a bit of building on the side).

    With this trowel, they can often be seen building ostentatious extensions onto the rear of high ranking policemen and town councillor's mock tudor style houses in Sussex.

    Weren't you curious though Tom, to see what went on in these meetings?

  5. They can't have wanted you, Cro.

    They were real stonemasons up until about 500 years ago, Mary Ann. All of the builders of the post Norman cathedrals were (and usually French to boot). Modern freemasonry transcends little details like the splitting away from Rome.

    I (and you) can guess what goes on these days, Chris.