Isle of Wight County Press
A real test of masonsí desire for transparency
Friday, July 13, 2012
By Keith Newbery
THIS ISLAND LIFE
The masons in their regalia. Picture by Peter Boam
Indeed, if a slightly contorted clutch is regarded as a sign of lodge allegiance, people who have met my mate Malc Lawrence (a martyr to rheumatoid arthritis) must have believed themselves to be in the presence of The Worshipful Master of the United Grand Lodge of England.
I was reminded of this when, on the CP website last week, I saw a bunch of Freemasons from Ryde, proudly pictured in regalia which was being shown in public for the first time in almost 100 years.
Apparently, they had to get permission for this display as part of their organisationís drive to 'dispel the mythí it is a secret society.
Iím not sure whether Freemasons are familiar with the concept of 'ironyí but I suspect its meaning may have been pointed out to one or two after this rather elaborately orchestrated emergence from a carefully constructed closet.
However, having studied the photograph, it is easy to understand why the Guild of Mutual Back Scratchers was in no hurry to let the light in on their hitherto clandestine clobber.
Iím not sure Iíd be too keen to be seen in public wearing what appears to be a large, embroidered pinny (though the gentlemen concerned seemed extremely pleased with themselves).
They actually looked like a cross between a group of up-market Morris dancers and a bunch of Ruritanian waiters but let us switch our attention from appearance to motive. It is said Freemasons raise large sums for charitable causes ó for which they should be commended.
But so do plenty of other organisations ó and they donít feel the need to keep membership lists secret, indulge in private rituals and pledge to cover each otherís backs.
I might be prepared to concede the Freemasons had a point if WI members wore bejewelled masks, referred to their chairwomen as 'the worshipful mistressí and were required to roll down their right stocking as part of the admission process.
Notwithstanding all this, I suspect at least three of my friends are lodge members and I decided to ask one of them outright the other day.
There followed a tell-tale pause, which was sufficient to convince me he was, even if he intended to deny it.
"I am, yes," he said eventually, "but I canít tell you anything else about it. We are sworn to secrecy."
So much for the 'mythí the lads from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Hampshire and the IW are so eager to dispel.
"Why have you never asked me to join?" I inquired, mildly affronted at not being invited to tie the blindfold and hoist the trouser-leg in the cause of fraternal bonding.
"Because you would have extracted the bodily fluid non-stop for about a month," was the general tenor of the reply.
He was right, of course, but I would still like to issue a challenge to the gentlemen at the Ryde Masonic Centre (or any other Island lodge for that matter).
If you are serious about your quest for greater transparency, and genuinely wish to remove the mystery surrounding your organisation, its motives and its rituals, invite me and a CP photographer to your next initiation ceremony and dinner.
Alternatively, ask all your members who are policemen (serving or retired), councillors, council officials or who hold other positions of influence in public life, to agree to make their names public.
After all, youíve nothing to hide have you?