Not all that long ago I attended Warwick Davenport’s 50th Anniversary in the Royal Arch. He talked about families who were prominent in East Lancs Freemasonry during his early days as a Mason.
This set me musing. I have not really experienced “families” in my own Masonic career and in an age where people take advantage of the opportunities to move around for work, for a more congenial climate, or to be closer to those they love, it seemed a little other-worldly, somewhat old-fashioned, perhaps even Victorian. But at the same time the thought of a family being close, mutually supportive and still seeking and sharing the brotherly love and deeper moral insight that comes from Freemasonry was, well, comforting and reassuring.
On the other hand, one of the big challenges facing modern Freemasonry is understanding the needs and wants of young men so that we can better accommodate them within our fraternal organisation and mould some of our practices to embrace modernity whilst ensuring our principles and traditions are not eroded. Where better to learn and understand the needs of young men than within an extended, supportive family?
The Royal Arch is a microcosm of Masonic society and, albeit the single most important and populous of the non-Craft orders, how likely is it that in the current environment a family would emerge, to make a positive impact on our beautiful order?
How weird then that an email should come into my inbox just a few days after Provincial Grand Chapter that focused all my musings. It came from Jonathan Basger and had, as an attachment, him and his two brothers David and Harvey at Provincial Grand Chapter. All had been “on the stage” at PGC.
Three brothers with roles senior enough in the Royal Arch to warrant their being together on the stage at PGC seemed to be “a first”, unless of course anyone knows differently, and it would be great to hear if you do.
What amazed me was I never quite thought of them as a “family”. The three are hardworking masons, but in my interactions with them it was clear that the needs of Masonic duty put biological brotherly love firmly in the shadows.
As the lack of hair and the colour of that remaining will tell, none of these companions are in the first flush of youth. So although it came as a surprise last week, at the Installation Ceremony of Ark and Menorah Chapter, I was pleased to see that the family has new generations in Freemasonry. My personal experience is that children are better looking than their parents, and this seems to be the case in the Basger family too. More importantly I kept a keen eye on whether at this intergenerational level there was any suggestion of family taking sway over masonic duty? No there was not, and the senior Basgers were treated in exactly the same way as the Deputy Grand Superintendent of West Lancs, and they in turn treated this young RA Freemason in the same way as all the others.
In a world where I hear men saying that we should bring back conscription in order to bring discipline to young men, perhaps an alternative with a less bellicose back drop might be masonry. But that is a thought for another day.
If you have any stories, preferably with pictures, about Royal Arch Families of 3 or more could you send them to me to put up on the website?
Tony Freemont APGP, Manchester and Salford