Musings from the Deputy Grand Superintendent #4

Musings from the Deputy Grand Superintendent #4

If you want to catch up with earlier musings:

(11/04/20) #1
(12/05/20) #2
(01/07/21) #3

One of the things I’ve missed whilst not meeting, is receiving summonses.

I’ve always enjoyed receiving and reading them; the names, places, the business, even the styles of them. Technology has made it so much easier (and cheaper!) to administer our Orders and our memberships, but I have always felt we lost something when we lost the arrival of a summons in the post. The oldest member of my mother Lodge still struggles to remember to come to a meeting, unless the summons for it is placed, by his wife, behind the clock on the mantlepiece. A timely reminder for him in more ways than one then.

I remember writing a paper many years ago which is still in circulation. It referenced “The Freemason; a Hudibrastic Poem“, (‘Hudibrastic’ being a type of English verse), which dated back to the first quarter of the 18th century. It included the line: “A man when he needs must drink, sends letters without pen and ink, unto some brother who at hand, and does the message understand, the papers of the shape that’s square, thrice folded with the utmost care.” Handwritten and hand delivered invitations to a Masonic meeting must, in those days, made being a member and attending a meeting, very special indeed. An invitation to attend but with it, the charm and uniqueness of being a Freemason.

For our older Lodges and Chapters, reading the names on the summons of the members from centuries ago always sparks my imagination. Within a Province such as ours which contains the oldest Chapters in the Constitution, my Chapter at 170 years old is a baby in comparison. But the names of PZs on the summons are there to remind us of who came before and our heritage; as my mother would point out, they are “old names”: ‘Isaac Gaitskell’, ‘Jno. G. Blackburn’ and surnames like ‘Lees’, ‘Clegg’, ‘Greaves’, ‘Crompton’ are all old family names of the locale where the Chapter was founded.

On closer inspection, you can usually see the thread of family, of fathers, sons, uncles, all following a tradition and weaving a fabric of history, of continuity, commitment and of service. Within my own Lodge, the name of ‘Beetham’ had been a constant feature on our summons for nearly 100 years.

I wanted to mention this to you because it is a timely reminder for when those summonses start arriving at your inbox or letterbox again, of what they represent. It is not ‘just’ a summons. It is an invitation to a meeting, but it is also an invitation to be part of and celebrate a heritage which we are duty-bound to consider and remember. Take the time to read the business, but then, read the names. And when you meet again, take the time to ask questions about the names on the summons. The names you don’t know, the names which came before and kept your Lodge or Chapter viable for you to inherit and become the custodian of. For with the older members, there will be a wealth of stories, of history, anecdotes, laughter which bring those names to life again. They have made your Lodge and Chapter what it is today and in some respects, have influenced those subtle nuances of tradition, inherited practices which are passed on and the origin of which is so easily lost. Within my own Lodge, the closing by the Junior Warden still retains a nod to a member who died nearly 20 years ago and whose broad Lancashire brogue influences the way the words are pronounced to this day: “Arty greetings from the members of your own Lodge Worshipful Master” – all to the amusement of those ‘in the know’ and to the bemusement of new visitors!

An oft used phrase when we think of heritage is that we “stand on the shoulders of giants.”

But these things make up who and what we are, the unique nature and history of every Lodge and Chapter and which adds to the fun of visiting and explaining those nuances.

And when we do meet again, and the toast is to absent Brethren or Companions or it ends with that well-worn phrase, “… present and past”, think what “past” really represents. It’s your past. It’s your heritage. And it’s the duty of all of us to make the effort to know it. And having done so, it deserves the respect of being “… passed on to your successors pure and unsullied” just as much as the traditions related to your ceremonies.

An oft used phrase when we think of heritage is that we “stand on the shoulders of giants.” I guess, in a way, Freemasonry is no different. But in real terms we stand on the shoulders of many quiet, dedicated, unassuming men who had no idea of what was to come, but valued their ‘now’ and ensured their Freemasonry was the best it could be for all whom it touched.

When we get back to meeting, why not take the trouble to find out something about your Masonic forebears? For when you do, you really do honour the memory of those who went before and lay the foundations for those who will come after.

So, what’s in a summons? It would appear so much more than a paper of business. It’s an invitation to attend, but it is also an invitation to get involved and in doing so, an opportunity to explore your past, enjoy the present and create a sustainable future. And one day, we might all be deserving of our place in that list of names on a summons and prompt our successors to regale one another of tales of accomplishment, service and fun – and be worthy recipients of that toast to our memory.

© 2021, all text and images contained in this post are the property of the author and photographer respectively.

1 Comment
  1. Thanks for your musings Martin – they made interesting reading and reminded me when I was researching my mother-lodge’s history for its centenary in 1996.
    One of the things that particularly struck me was the occupations of the candidates in the early days of the Lodge.
    I remember there was a wheelwright and a horsehair trader – but again they would not have known what to make of computer programmers or IT managers of today.
    Your fellow 2ndProvGP always acknowledges receipt of a summons (and shows that he has read it by commenting on the business) – as a ScE I appreciate his reply and find it an encouragement.

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