Saturday, August 1, 2009

Knight versus Higham - part 4 - Masonry too open, Money

BBC Radio 4'S Tuesday Call
13 November 1984

In this live radio broadcast, listeners phoned in to Tuesday Call to ask questions about Freemasonry, under the chairmanship of Sue MacGregor. In the transcript below, her words are printed in italic, and those of the two participants are prefixed with

(K) -
Stephen Knight author of `The Brotherhood ` or
(H) -
Commander Michael Higham, Grand Secretary of the UGLE

to differentiate them from the questioners.

.....continued from part 3



(K) This I think highlights one of the problems of Freemasonry. Many many members misunderstand what Freemasonry is all about, and if only the Grand Lodge could make it apparent what Freemasonry is about, and make it clear that what things are to be done and what things aren't to be done, there would be a lot more understanding. I mean, Commander Higham mentioned earlier that one - to join Freemasonry - one goes through a long process, and it's very well known, I know - very well known by an existing member. I know of a place where there are application forms for Freemasonic membership on the bar in a pub.

You mean it's become as open as that?

(K) As open as that. And what I'm saying is that standards, the required standards of entry aren't as high as they once were, and this again is a basic part of the problem.

I think we'll move on, though, from membership because we may come back to it later, for the moment, and thank Mr Smith in Reading for his questions. There is of course a new, a brand new leaflet called What Is Freemasonry? that's available to masons, it really helps them explain in simple terms what masonry's about to people who are not masons, so there is a chink in their armour, perhaps a deliberate one there. But let's move on now to Birmingham and talk to Denis Bagley. Good morning Mr Bagley.

(Mr Bagley) Good morning.

You've got a fairly straight forward question I think.


(Mr Bagley) Sure. Commander Higham, I read some time ago that it was necessary to have a considerable amount of money to be a Freemason, would you say this is correct? Would you say that you meet any ordinary working people among the masons, anyone a little down at heel, very many unemployed amongst the masons, or are they from the top echelons, the big businessmen, the top ranks of the police and such?

(H) No Mr Bagley, you don't need to have a great deal of money to join masonry. The amount of money you have to layout depends on the lodge you join, you may find that in your area if you wanted to become a mason there's a great variety of lodges that you could belong to, and depending on your circumstances in life you'd find people who thought the same way as you and probably had much the same income as you. There are some lodges which have enormously high joining fees, that's because they try to be exclusive, there are some which have very small ones. My own is for impoverished naval officers and has a very small subscription.

Can you give us some sort of idea what the highest and what the lowest subscriptions might be?

(H) I can give you my own lodge's subscription which is fifteen pounds a year, fifteen pounds to join. I have heard of lodges with joining fees of two hundred pounds, and I may be not in the top of the bracket there. But the point is nobody is required to layout more money on Freemasonry than he can afford, he's not required to put out more time on Freemasonry than he can afford.

I think Mr Bagley's point perhaps is that there is an impression given that Freemasonry is only for, were you saying sort of middle class, professional people Mr Bagley?

(Mr Bagley) This is correct. What I would like to say I'm not interested in the amount for you joining, would you be recommended and seconded if you was not in a wealthy position or in some position of power, Commander?

(H) Yes you would. There's no idea that Freemasonry is only for the powerful and the rich. I can give you a complete list of - l wouldn't give you a complete list ....

Ah, I wondered whether ....

(H) ... I would mention to you a lot of professions or occupations which do not normally get themselves associated with richness or power.

Mention some.

(H) Engine drivers- I suppose they're fairly powerful!- stage hands, there's one lodge that I certainly know has got porters in a building in it, who are in the hierarchy of that building not of the highest, they enjoy their masonry in their own way.

Do lodges tend to specialise in certain callings?

(H) Yes, but not exclusively. You'll find that some lodges are centred on institutions or professions but you'll find anybody who's associated with that profession will be able to join. You find lodges sometimes start as being exclusive and then circumstances change and they get away from it.

Mr Bagley, I'd like to know what Stephen, and I expect you do too, what Stephen Knight feels about that.

(Mr Bagley) Could I speak ... ?

Yes. Can we just hear Stephen Knight what he feels about this?

(K) Well I feel exactly the same as Commander Higham, and it's open to everybody, and there's no-one better to explain that than the man who's actually inside.

So you have no criticisms on that score?

(K) Oh no, none at all.

Mr Bagley.

(Mr Bagley) Well I would like to ask Commander Higham what impression, has he noted many unemployed, many ordinary people, maybe there's one or two porters in to make it appear democratic but I still feel to be of the opinion that it's basically consists of the upper classes and businessmen who are pushing their own interests through the order of Freemasonry.

(H) Mr Bagley, I don't think that we're going to agree about this. But I don't think we're going to find that people join as porters merely to correct an image which if you like is more democratic, they join because they want to join, because they've got friends who bring them in.

....continued in part 5

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