The traditional outsider's view of Freemasonry as a self-help organization is certainly an important facet of the Brotherhood in real life not, as many masonic apologists maintain, only in the imaginations of the'profane'. Although a new initiate to Freemasonry declares on his honour that he offers himself as a candidate 'uninfluenced by mercenary or other unworthy motives', there can be no doubt that the majority of businessmen who become Masons do so because they believe it will assist them in business - as indeed it frequently does. Those who suggest that no selfish motive is ever present in the mind of the prospective Mason speak conscious humbug. One only has to speak to a handful of Freemasons and ex-Masons to realize how widespread the desire to 'get on' is in those who turn to the Brotherhood. This is not to denigrate the often very real desire for the legitimate privileges of Masonry - brotherhood, morality and charity - of many members. Many Freemasons, in addition to admitting that they joined primarily in the hope of having the edge in business and at job interviews, have told me they also think of Masonry as an insurance policy. If they become ill, they have the Royal Masonic Hospital. If they die, they feel confident that their wives and children will be taken care of financially. One man, the proprietor of a butcher's shop, a bakery and a launderette in a humble part of Cambridge, told me that he looked upon Masonic dues in precisely the same way as he did his National Insurance contributions, and as the union fees he had paid before becoming self-employed.
The exploitation of masonic membership, which, it must be said, most outsiders who are not directly affected by it accept as a part of the British way of life, comes into its own in the business world. Whether on the level of local trade or national commerce and industry, the Brotherhood plays a varying, often considerable, part in the awarding of contracts and in promotion.
On the local level, there is much cross-fertilization between Masonry and other groups of business people such as Round Table, Lions Clubs, and Rotary Clubs as well as Chambers of Commerce. Most of the male members of these organizations - and Chambers of Commerce at least contain an increasing number of women - are Freemasons as well. Men in business on their own account - for example, accountants, architects, builders, estate agents, restaurateurs, taxi firm proprietors, travel agents and shop keepers of all kinds - are strongly represented in Lodges up and down the country.
Commercial travellers frequently become Freemasons in order to be able to visit Lodges all over the country and to cultivate potential clients within the unique secret atmosphere of the Temple or the post-ritual dinner. There are no fewer than five Lodges named Commercial Travellers Lodge: in Darlington, Liverpool, London, Newcastle, and Preston.*
Ron Price, an insurance agent and a former Master Mason and Junior Deacon of a Lodge in Worcestershire, told me, 'Membership of Freemasonry is used considerably in the field of industry and commerce - because of the sign one can give which is unnoticeable by anyone else.
*Nos 5089, 2631, 2795, 3700 and 3493 respectively.
You can make it known to the other person that you are what they call on the square, and if the other person is on the square he will recognize the sign, and that can influence either your being able to make a sale or, if you are applying for a job, it can make the difference between whether you get the job or not.'
The sign by which a Mason may secretly make himself known to others in the room involves a particular arrangement of the feet. This arrangement is outlined in the ceremony of initiation to the First Degree. The Worshipful Master tells the Candidate, 'I shall, therefore, proceed to entrust you with the secrets of this degree, or those marks by which we are known to each other, and distinguished from the rest of the world . .. You are therefore expected to stand perfectly erect, your feet formed in a square, your body being thus considered an emblem of your mind, and your feet of the rectitude of your actions.' This is one of several bodily arrangements by which a Brother proclaims his affiliation to unknown brethren. If he is in a position to shake hands with the person to whom he wishes to identify himself, recognition becomes much easier. There are three basic handshakes in daily use, one for each of the first three degrees. The Entered Apprentice applies distinct pressure with his right thumb on the knuckle of the other man's forefinger. The Fellow Craft does the same thing with the second knuckle. The Master Mason applies distinct pressure with his right thumb between the knuckles of the other's middle and third finger.
Price went on, 'I have got business from two people as a result of being a Mason - not because I asked or made myself known particularly. Once it was actually in Lodge after dinner. I was sitting next to a man and he said, "Well, what is your business?" and I told him and he said, "Well, you can come along and have a chat with me," and I went along and had a chat and did some business. But after I came out of Freemasonry he didn't want to know. I had another case where I didn't really intend to convey that I was a Mason in any way but I obviously did so quite inadvertently because it was the natural way for me to shake hands. And as a result of that I got that particular client, but it faded when I resigned.'
A Grimsby restaurant owner told me that his one motive in joining Freemasonry was to 'ease the passage' of licence renewals. He said that before he became a Mason he had to contend with objections from the police and others, mainly individuals acting on behalf of his rivals. After becoming a Brother there were no further police objections because the majority of senior officers belonged to his Lodge, and such objections as were raised by others were from then on ignored by the local justices - because they, too, were members of the Lodge. He said, 'We help each other. Why not? It's what it's all about innit? I mean, you come to me, you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. I'd be a bloody masochist if I didn't take advantage like everyone else, wouldn't I? We're all human.'
A Past Master of Eden Park Lodge No 5379 in Croydon told me he had worked for many years as a consultant for Taylor Woodrow, the construction, home building and property development group of companies. He said, 'Looking back, although I didn't think anything about it at the time, I suppose it was wrong. But quite a few times I know I got contracts because I gave a masonic grip. The whole board of directors of Taylor Woodrow were Freemasons then. I don't know about now.
'You'll find that nine out of ten architects are Masons -and there is no getting away from it, I would put in a tender and when I did so, I'd shake the architect by the hand. "Oh," he'd say, "you're a Mason. The contract is yours."
'Looking back on it now I can see that it was a bit too "wheels within wheels" to be right. I probably shouldn't have done it, but that's the way Masonry works. If there's a contract going from an architect, the chances are he's a Mason, so the chances are a Mason will get it.'
John Poulson, the notoriously corrupt architect whose activities in bribing local government officers, councillors, Civil Servants, officials of nationalized industries and others created a scandal which has been described by more than one commentator as the British Watergate, was an avid Freemason. Nothing surprising in itself, perhaps, but Poulson did use Masonry as a back door to obtaining business. In Web of Corruption, the definitive story of Poulson and his infamous PR man ‘I. Dan Smith, the authors state:
If the Church was one of the focal points in Poulson's life, the Freemason's Lodge was another. In business much of what he did was behind closed doors, and he was naturally attracted to the secret society of Freemasonry, which practised morality, charity and obedience to the law and yet offered its members enormous political and business advantages. In the Middle Ages, you had to be a cathedral builder to become a Freemason but, in Poulson's Pontefract, the rule had been stood on its head, and an architect really needed to be a Freemason to design a block of flats. Poulson joined two lodges, De Lacy, code number Pontefract 4643, and Tateshall, code number 7647.* Together these lodges had recruited most of the town's business and professional people.
Poulson, say the authors, 'liked the ritual of Freemasonry, the rites and trappings and chivalric brotherhoods. He became master of both his Lodges and capped his underground career by being elected Provincial Grand Deacon of Yorkshire.' He exploited Masonry to the full in
*This is a typographical error in Web of Corruption. Tateshall Lodge, which meets at the Masonic Hall, Garleton Close, Pontefract, is numbered 7645.
advancing his professional interests and establishing contacts in all fields of potential advantage.
Banking is another stronghold of Freemasonry in the world of business. I have met bank employees at all levels from clerks in small local branches to directors of national clearing banks. It is generally accepted that promotion, although far from impossible for the non-Mason, less so now that so many women are entering banking, is nevertheless much more likely for the man who joins a Lodge early in his career. This is especially true of promotion to branch manager level and higher, where very few women or non-Masons reach even today. The Bank of England is rife with Masons and has its own Lodge.
I have been told by several informants how details of their bank accounts have been obtained by parties with no right to the information by way of masonic contacts in banks. The high proportion of bank managers and bank staff who are Freemasons can make the acquisition of this kind of confidential information relatively easy for a Mason, having as he does the right of access to every Lodge in the country. One man wanted to discover how much his twenty-nine-year-old daughter had in her two bank accounts, and to whom she had written cheques over the past year. He paid several visits to the Lodges in the town, about thirty miles away, where his daughter lived. Eventually he found a brother Mason who worked in a bank. It was an easy task for this Mason to telephone - through the legitimate inter-bank enquiry system - the branch where the other Mason's daughter had her accounts. When he obtained the information, the bank employee passed it to the father, doubtless convinced it was for good reasons as the request had come from a fellow Freemason. Indeed, the father himself believed it was for good reasons because he suspected that his daughter was involved with a man who was draining her of all she had. In fact, the daughter had a steady and long-term relationship with a man four years her junior who was studying for a PhD in London. They intended to marry when he got his doctorate. Meanwhile the woman was supporting him. This arrangement infuriated the father, whose view of life dated from the sterner 1920s. He traced the fiance through the cheque records illicitly obtained from the bank, and wrecked the relationship by revealing to the man that his daughter had been pregnant by someone else when she met him, and had later, without his knowledge, had an abortion. This information had also been gleaned from clues obtained from cleared cheques from the masonic contacts in the bank.
In industry, Masonry is far stronger among white-collar workers and management up to the highest echelons, although once men on the shop floor attain the position of foremen or its equivalent, there is usually distinct advantage in joining the appropriate Lodge. The nationalized industries are rife with Freemasonry, especially the British Steel Corporation, the National Coal Board, British Rail, the Post Office, the regional gas and electricity boards and the Central Electricity Generating Board, the Atomic Energy Authority and London Transport. Mr Raymond B. Mole (Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies, 1977), chief executive of the Royal Masonic Hospital at Hammersmith, told journalist Robert Eagle, 'You often find that when a man with London Transport gets promotion and a bit of gold braid on his uniform, he then starts thinking of becoming a Mason.'
Eagle's investigation was centred on Masonry in the medical profession, which is prevalent, especially among general practitioners and the more senior hospital doctors. Hospital Lodges prove useful meeting places for medical staff and administrators. Most main hospitals, including all the London teaching hospitals, have their own Lodges. According to Sir Edward Tuckwell, former Serjeant-
Surgeon to the Queen, and Lord Porritt, Chairman of the African Medical and Research Foundation, both Freemasons and both consultants to the Royal Masonic Hospital, the Lodges of the teaching hospitals draw their members from hospital staff and GPs connected with the hospital in question. Tuckwell and Porritt are members of the Lodges attached to the teaching hospitals where they trained and later worked - Porf itt at St Mary's, Paddington (St Mary's Lodge No 63), which has about about forty active members out of a total of 300, half of them general practitioners; and Tuckwell at St Bartholomew's (Rahere Lodge No 2546), with about thirty active brethren. Other London hospital Lodges include King's College (No 2973); London Hospital, Whitechapel (No 2845); St Thomas's (No 142) and Moorfields (No 4949).
Many of the most senior members of the profession are Freemasons, especially those actively involved with the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons, which has benefited from a massive £600,000 trust fund set up by the Brotherhood for medical research. Masonry does seem to have had an influence over certain appointments. Tuckwell emphatically denied that membership of the Brotherhood ever helped any doctor's career, telling Eagle that there was not the slightest truth in the rumour . . whereas Lord Porritt more circumspectly said that "it would be hard to deny that some people have been helped"'.
Although the governing bodies of most major hospitals are formed largely of Freemasons, the one overriding consideration in medicine, at least in the non-administrative areas, seems to be placing the best person in the job, whether Mason or otherwise. This is perhaps best illustrated by the staffing of the Brotherhood's own hospital. The Royal Masonic Hospital is not staffed exclusively by Freemasons, although most of its consultants are Brothers.
Chief executive of the hospital Raymond Mole says that Masonry is not a criterion for appointment. The only qualification demanded is that a Royal Masonic consultant be a consultant at a teaching hospital. Robert Eagle again:
. . . registrars at the hospital are not usually Masons . .. one of the few women doctors to work at the Royal Masonic Hospital told me that during the several years she held the job she heard very little mention of the subject.
'Obviously no one asked me to join; but I had no idea whether even my closest colleague there was a Mason.' As she subsequently became a consultant at the hospital she does not seem to have been the victim of Masonic misogyny either.
Freemasonry plays a significant but declining role in the field of education. It is common for junior and secondary school headmasters and college lecturers to be Brothers. There are as many as 170 Old Boys Lodges in England and Wales, most of which have current teaching staff among their members.
The ambulance and fire services are strongly represented in Masonry, and there is a higher proportion of prison officers than police officers in the Brotherhood. Unlike the police, though, there is little fraternization between the higher and lower ranks in the service. The senior officers of prisons have their Lodges, the 'screws' theirs, and rare the twain shall meet. One premier London Lodge has in a matter of a few years completely changed its character due to an influx of prison officers from Wormwood Scrubs Prison. Lodge La Tolerance No 538, consecrated in 1847, until recently considered something of an elite Lodge, was in need of new members. One of the brethren knew a senior officer at the Scrubs who was interested in joining the Brotherhood, and it was agreed that he should be considered. The prison officer was interviewed and accepted into the Lodge. Such was the interest among the new initiate's colleagues that one by one the number of prison officers in Lodge La Tolerance increased. As more and more joined, so more and more older members left because they were unhappy with the changing character of the Lodge. Lodge No 538 is now dominated by prison officers from the Scrubs, where it is strongest in D Wing, the lifers' section. Although I have heard no allegations that promotion at the Scrubs is difficult for non-Masons, claims throughout the service of masonic favouritism are more common than in the police.
It is not possible in the space available to give more than a general survey of the part played by the Brotherhood in the field of business and work. The specific allegations investigated produce a picture of undeniable masonic influence over appointments, contracts and promotions in many areas, but also of widespread suspicion of masonic collusion where none exists. Certain strongly masonic areas of life not covered in this chapter are looked at in some detail elsewhere in the book.