Review of Freemasonry

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FAMOUS FREEMASONS. A Talk to our less senior Brethren
by V.W. Bro. Anthony FIELD
Past Grand Director of Ceremonies of the United Grand Lodge of England
Past Grand Director of Ceremonies in the Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch
Visiting Grand Officers of the Metropolital Grand Lodge of London

Lecture first given to the Menorah Lodge No 7195 (now amalgamated with the Joseph Lister Lodge No. 8032) on the 50th anniversary of ‘D’ day. June 6th. 1944. Adapted from an idea for a Toast to the Initiates by W. Bro. Terry Waghorn RN, late Provincial Grand Master of the Mark Degree in the Province of Cornwall who participated in that great battle.

Joseph Banks

Brethren, please forgive me for reading a large part of this talk rather than delivering it ‘off the cuff’ but as you will realise from the content there is too much here to carry in my head.

The talk is aimed primarily at our younger brethren who have as yet not had time to absorb the immensity of our great Masonic institution.


During the ceremony of your initiation you stated that you were prompted to solicit our privileges by a favourable opinion, preconceived, of the Institution, a general desire for knowledge and a sincere wish to render yourself more extensively serviceable to your fellow creatures.   In order in some small measure to gratify your desire for knowledge, I shall proceed to put you in possession of certain facts, which, had you known them earlier, might well have added to your preconceived favourable opinion.  You will not have realised it but Freemasons have had an influence on your life thus far to an extent that you have never dreamed of.   I will not mystify you further but will proceed to explain how this is so.


Soon after you were born, I expect that you were vaccinated against Smallpox. The discovery of this method of combating this dreadful disease was the work of W. Bro. Edward Jenner.   You may have had a serious accident or illness requiring surgery and needed an anaesthetic, for which you can thank Bro. Dr. Crawford Long who first used Ether for this purpose.  You are probably one of the millions who have good cause to bless W. Bro. Sir Alexander Fleming, a Grand Officer in the English Constitution and of course  the discoverer of Penicillin.   He was appointed Grand Senior Warden in 1946.    Joseph Lister Lodge No. 8032, which is the Lodge of University College Hospital is named after Bro. Joseph Lister, the discoverer of antiseptics.


On going to school you prepare to be educated.  Freemasonry at school you may well ask?  The answer is an emphatic ‘Yes’.  Let us commence with Geography, where you learn about countries such as Bolivia and the former Rhodesia, named after Bros. Simon Bolivar and Cecil Rhodes.  In fact there are hundreds if not thousands of cities, towns, rivers and mountains etc. named after prominent Freemasons and we think immediately of Dallas, Houston, Washington, Mount McKinley, Durban, Lafayette and countless others.  Turning to Chemistry, you are taught to use symbols for the various elements.  This was the work of Bro. Baron Berzelius, who also first discovered and isolated several of those elements as did Bro. Jose Bonifacio, the famous Brazilian statesman and scientist.  Another brilliant chemist and minerologist was W. Bro James Smithson, a London Freemason, better remembered for his legacy which led to the foundation of the world famous Smithsonian Institute, a seat of learning unique in the world.

Botany introduces us to the Burbank Plum and the Shasta Daisy, both of which were developed by Bro. Luther Burbank.  In warmer climates the very beautiful flaming Poinsetta is well known.  It is named after Joel R. Poinsett, an American diplomat, amateur horticulturist and keen Freemason.   It is very likely that many of you will have visited Kew Gardens , founded by Sir Joseph Banks, a member of the Somerset House Lodge.  Likewise, the London Zoo, started by Sir Stamford Raffles , an initiate of a Lodge in the Dutch East Indies.

Back in the classroom, do you remember an experiment with iron filings and a magnet?  This introduced to you the study of electro-magnetism and the important work of Bro. Hans Christian Oersted.   With history it is virtually impossible to find a page in the last two hundred years without encountering Freemasons.   Indeed, amongst them are some black sheep whom we might feel reason to reprehend, albeit with mercy but by far the greater number were worthy men.  Coming to mind are The Duke of Wellington, the French revolutionaries Talleyrand and Jean Paul Marat, John Wilkes, Edmund Burke, Marshall Bernadotte,  Barons Scharnhorst and Gneisnau who gave their names to the two famous battleships of the second world war, Daniel O’Connell, Louis Kossuth, George Washington, the first of many Presidents of the United States to be involved with the Craft, Field Marshal Lord Roberts, Lord Kitchener of Khartoum,   Field Marshall Earl Haigh,  Admiral Jellicoe,  Admiral Beresford,   General Pershing down through to Winston Churchill whose grandfather had been a Grand Senior Warden , Generals George Marshall, Douglas Macarthur, Omar Bradley and Mark Clark. Col. Jimmy Doolittle and at least two modern day English Grand Officers, Marshall of the Royal Air Force Lord Newall and Field Marshall Lord Alexander of Tunis.


Tales of bravery among Freemasons would take up much time but it may be worth mentioning that at the famous battle of Rorkes Drift in the Zulu Wars the two principal officers who were awarded the Victoria Cross, Lieutenants  Bromhead and Chard  were both Freemasons and both subsequently achieved high rank.  W. Bro. Tommy Gould VC, the heroic submariner of the Second World War is a long serving mason who went into the chair for the first time at the age of nearly eighty.  Another act of bravery!       Other researchers have written of the many masons that have been awarded  the Victoria Cross in the service of their country and of freedom.


Among the many Presidents of the United States who were Freemasons after Washington we find James Munroe, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt,  Lyndon Johnson and Gerald Ford.  Harry Truman was actually the Grand Master of Freemasons of the State of Missouri before becoming President of the U.S.  All these men had a commitment to public service above and beyond the norm.     It is now the usual procedure at the inauguration of a U.S. President for him to take the Oath of Office on Washington’s Masonic Bible.


Still, all work and no play will not do.  What did you play at?  Did you ever pretend to be Davy Crocket or Buffalo Bill?  Oh yes, Senator Davy Crocket and William Cody were real people and members of our order as was General Tom Thumb, the diminutive dwarf.   What of the entertainment industry?  For many years the chief film censor was Bro. Will Hays and among the famous Masonic   personalities in the film industry were David W. Griffiths, Cecil B. DeMille and Louis B. Mayer as well as such well known stars as Bud Abbott, Gene Autry, Joe E. Brown, Oliver Hardy, Clark Gable, John Wayne, Douglas Fairbanks, Peter Sellars and hundreds of others.   When leaving a building used for public entertainment did you ever imagine that  lightning conductors were invented by a Freemason.  They were  and the Brother in question was the immortal Benjamin Franklin who also invented bi-focal glasses and later became postmaster general of the United States.


Still,  not all time out of school was your own.  Occasionally, I imagine that you were dragged off to visit a favourite relative scrubbed clean, no doubt, with a product of Bro. Lord Leverhulme, the soap and deturgent tycoon.  During the visit you may perhaps have had a biscuit and a cup of tea.  Did you take one of those large biscuits full of currants?  Ah yes, a Garibaldi, so named after the great Italian patriot and Grand Master.  What about the tea?  Could it have been Liptons where once more we meet a Freemason in the person of  Bro. Sir Thomas Lipton, the ocean yachtsman and  tea magnate.    Much tea   was sold by W. Bro. Jack Cohen, the founder of Tesco and much was drank in the famous holiday camps of W. Bro. Billy Butlin.


Then again doubtless in those tender years you were thrilled by tales of high adventure and on looking back, is it not true that truth is stranger than fiction.  Many of the true stories tell of bravery, heroism, fighting against all odds and of brotherly love.   Such stories as that of Bro. Charles Lindbergh, flying out alone, putting his trust in the Almighty on that first wild, impossible crossing of the Atlantic in a small single engine aeroplane,  and of Bro. Capt Robert Falcon Scott, struggling to the South Pole and back to his tragic though heroic death.

From his diary it is known that his thoughts were always of others.  Scott was initiated into the Drury Lane Lodge in London.    There is the happier story of Bro. Sir Ernest Shackleton, of Peary and the North Pole, of Byrd flying over both Poles, not without thrills on each occasion.

We remember the founding of the City State of Singapore by Bro. Sir Stamford Raffles, of the intrepid adventures of James Brooke, the White Rajah of Sarawak or the exploits of the American ‘G’ men directed by Bro. J. Edgar Hoover, the immortal defence of Corregidor by Bro. Matthew Wainwright,  the almost unbelievable escapes of that master entertainer Harry Houdini, the strange fascinating story of Bro. Anton Mesmer who was denounced as a charlatan in his day but is now generally accepted as the founder of the science of animal magnetism commonly known as Mesmerism.  What of the turbulent career of the boxer Bro. Jack Dempsey…one could continue for ever.


As you grew to manhood I am sure that the cultural side of your life was not neglected.  What did you read?  Would it be Sherlock Holmes, Ivanhoe, Tom Sawyer, Three Men in a Boat, King Solomon’s Mines etc.  Remember that Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott, Mark Twain, Jerome  K. Jerome and Rudyard Kipling were all Freemasons.  Regarding the latter, much of Freemasonry was made in his book ‘The Man who would be King’.   It might well be that you were very keen on literature, in which case you have met works by Bros. Goethe,  Alexander Pope, Goldsmith, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Pushkin, Schiller, Edward Gibbon (remember the decline and fall of the Roman Empire)  James Boswell (the biographer of Dr. Johnson) who was the deputy Grand Master mason of Scotland.



Amazing eh!  We must not forget the Rubayat of Omar Khayam or the Tales of the Arabian Nights both translated by Masons, the former by Edward Fitzgerald and the latter by Sir Richard Burton.  Perhaps you enjoy good music and among our more famous musical brethren we find Joseph Haydn, Franz Liszt, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose opera ‘The Magic Flute’ had a Masonic background, Thomas Arne, the composer of Rule Brittania, Johann  Christian Bach , son of the great Johann Sebastian but a great musician in his own right ,  Samuel Wesley, a nephew of John Wesley the founder of Methodism who actually was the organist at the grand ceremony to celebrate the union of the two Grand Lodges in London in 1817.  Martial music is represented in our hall of fame by John Philip Sousa  but let us not forget something less classical in the form of Alexander’s Ragtime Band by Bro. Irving Berlin and the enormous talent of Bro. Louis Armstrong.


Let us turn for a brief moment to the stage where again there is a wealth of talent from brethren Sir Henry Irving, Edmund Kean, David Garrick and hosts of others including the late lamented Bro. Peter Sellars, a member of Chelsea Lodge in London.  Apart from Chelsea Lodge there are of course a number of others in England founded by well known members of the showbiz profession including Alhambra Lodge and Vaudeville Lodge.    In the world of Art we find Hogarth, Alexander Nasmyth, Jean Anton Houdon etc. 


You write many letters and many no doubt are sent overseas yet until Bro. Heinrich von Stephan formed the Universal Postal Union about one hundred and fifty years ago , this was both costly and risky.    Some time or other you start to shave that stubble on your face and at this time probably Bro. King Gillette enters your life.  You get on in the world and buy a car but not necessarily one made by Bro. Henry Ford.  You drive on a metalled road and once again it is a Freemason , John Loudon Macadam who is the father of modern road building.   Then the fair sex crosses your path and much advice is to be found in the songs and works of Bros. Gilbert and Sullivan.   Bro William Gilbert was a Scottish Mason and W. Bro Sir Arthur Sullivan known also for ‘The Lost Chord’ and ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ as well as for the Savoy Operas was the Grand Organist of the United Grand Lodge of England.   You go to a party and dance the ‘Paul Jones’ named after the famous American and Freemason and when the party is over you sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ the words by the immortal Bro. Robbie Burns.


Our own Royal Family has been prominent in ruling the Craft for over 200 years and most of our male Sovereigns have been Grand Masters in and of the Order.   Of course, our present Grand Master is the Duke of Kent, first cousin of HM the Queen. At the Coronation of the Queen both the Archbishops of Canterbury and of York were Grand Chaplains.  Somewhere in the world at this moment the Red Cross Organisation is doing it’s humane  work and once again it is a Freemason, Bro Henri Dunant who founded this great organisation after the bloody battle of Solferino.   The Statue of Liberty in New York harbour was the work of Bro Frederick Bartholdi and the city of Paris is dominated by Bro. Gustave Eiffel’s masterpiece.


In fact with practically everything that you do and wherever you go you will discover your Brother Freemasons extending the hand of friendship to welcome you.  You all of course have an equal part to play in all this ; Do justice, love mercy, practice charity and endeavour to live in brotherly love with all mankind , so that you yourselves will be able to contribute something sincere, however small to the glorious heritage which is ours.

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