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It used to be that Freemasonry was very much a secret order, but in the days of Google and social media that’s not really possible
Freemasonry is an old order, going back to the 1700s, and now LeedsLive has spoken to some members to lift the lid of the ‘secret’ organisation.
Members of the ‘secret’ masonic order used to mainly be builders of churches and cathedrals – hence masonry, but since then, the organization has changed quite significantly. The Leeds Lodge is one of the larger lodges in the county. Founded in September, 1947, they are well-established and based at Castle Grove Masonic Hall in Headingley.
LeedsLive spoke to some Freemasons at The Lodge of Dawn, one of several masonic lodges in Leeds. It used to be that Freemasonry was very much a secret order, but in the days of Google and social media that’s not really possible.
We asked three members of the lodge to clarify a few things about Masonry. Is it really a secret? Is the order only for the rich and powerful? Can anyone join? We had to get some answers.
We spoke with Philip, a solicitor, Chris, a businessman and Sam, a head of department. They spoke to us about how they became involved with The Lodge of Dawn.
Philip joined in the early 2000s after seeing a number of members of his family be involved throughout his life. HIs father and grandfather were both Freemasons, along with his uncle.
He said: “When I first joined, I went into it because my family had been Freemasons, my father was in the same lodge. There was no pressure at all but they said, try it and it might be something you enjoy.
“Straight away I felt very welcome, it felt very strange but there is nothing scary. I think there are a lot of myths.”
Philip said the main reason he joined the order was for charity and social purposes. The order donates quite a sizeable amount each year to different organizations.
Over the last nine months The Lodge of Dawn has donated £24,700 to Chapeltown Youth Club, £28,000 to John Jamieson School and £20,000 to Headingley’s St Chads Broomfield Cricket Club.
And nationally the Freemasons have contributed £51.1m to deserving causes in 2020, and have recently set up a Ukrainian Appeal Relief Chest, which has already raised over £700,000.
Becoming a Freemason is not what it once was. According to Philip you no longer need to be of a high standing or have a lot of wealth, as long as you are over 18 and know someone within the order you can ask to join.
Alternatively, if you don’t happen to know of any Freemasons within your circle, you can contact any lodge and ask to be considered. A proposal is submitted and then, if accepted, you will begin a series of three ceremonies.
These ceremonies are called ‘degrees’ and take place across the year. The first degree is Entered Apprentice, followed by Fellowcraft and then Master Mason.
Once the initiation has taken place, you are a part of the order and you can begin masonic duties. The order host a number of social events including pizza nights, bar crawls and dinners.
Is Freemasonry only for the rich and powerful?
Throughout pop culture, we often see spoofs of the Masonic movement. Strange handshakes, questionable characters and powerful unknowns are an assumption but it seems that is not the case.
We asked Philip if the order is as exclusive as it seems and whether money is the be all and end all of joining.
He said: “Definitely not, I think historically it drew its members from the more wealthy and those of higher stature but not anymore.
“A lot of Royalty and famous people are involved but the majority of members are not privileged and not from wealthy backgrounds anymore, there’s a misconception that to be in it you have to be rich and give to charity.”
Chris had a more emotive reason to join The Lodge. His friend, who sadly passed away, had been asking him for years to become a Mason. However, like a lot of the public, Chris had his reservations hearing some of the myths of Freemasonry as a non-member.
He said: “It was a friend of mine, who sadly passed away very young, he was only 41 when he died and he was a member of our lodge
“For years and years he said ‘why don’t you come join, I think you’d really enjoy it’ because I have a really keen interest in history and theology and because of the strong historical content of Freemasonry.
“However, like most of the public, I had a preconceived idea about what FM was or is, so obviously I was reluctant to join so every time he mentioned the subject I closed it down and said it wasn’t for me.”
After being asked over and over again, Chris caved, said yes and went to meet some members for an interview. As soon as he passed and got in he felt at home.
“My only regret is that I waited so long, I waited around seven or eight years, I wish I had joined earlier,” Chris added.
Is it taboo to say you are a member of the Freemasons?
One of the biggest assumptions about Freemasonry is the secrecy. There is an idea that no-one is supposed to know you are a mason is and all lodge dealings are kept secret, but due to the arrival of the internet and social media that is no longer the case.
Chris spoke of how much more open members are today about being in Masonry. “I think what’s changed probably in the last 10 years is that people are more open now to say they are a member,
“Possibly because of the internet, there’s a lot of bad and false info on the internet but there’s also a lot of good and truth online and you can just Google what happens in Masonry”
The last member we spoke with, Sam, is a head of department in business and he’s a more recent member, joining in 2016.
Sam joined in the traditional way. His father-in-law was quite a senior figure in the Lodge and thought it would be good to join to have something in common with him. But when he arrived and saw members for the first time, a deeper memory triggered.
Sam said: “The main thing that attracted me was that my grandfather was a freemason, we found his regalia in the attic and when I joined and I saw the same thing, it just triggered the memories of my grandfather.”
Sam too had some concerns about joining after seeing how the Lodges were portrayed in the media. However he says the experience of being with a group you would often not hang around with has been great.
He said: “Once I joined I have loved it and that it’s great to have shared interests with people you wouldn’t normally meet.”
You can visit The Lodge of Dawn website to find out more about Freemasonry, and look at their charitable work across Leeds.