As I approach another year in Masonry and with massive changes in my life, I find myself taking stock of my progress and future in a part of my life that has become integral its very fabric. My hope is that those who are at a crossroads wondering what Order to join next (if any) will gain some inspiration from my path that was guided at every step by men who became role models, influencers and indeed Mentors. We are in an era when Masonry itself finds its own journey towards survival has prompted Mentors in the Craft, attraction and retention committees in abundance and social media playing a pivotal part enabling like minded men openly discuss their activities and preferences.
I well remember it took me almost two and a half years to progress from Entered Apprentice to Master Mason. Candidates were certainly not in short supply. My mother Lodge having an active membership in the high 40’s. Times were very different from today. My Masonry began at Victoria House where resided one of the key figures in my journey whom I am sure many of you will remember with a smile…W.Bro.Gordon Makin. Gordon took me under his wing from the start sensing my enthusiasm for all things Masonic. It was he who helped me take my first steps beyond the Craft. That step, in hindsight perhaps not quite the best for me as I found myself in a unit where I was the junior by well over 30 years. That’s a big step for someone in Round Table!
My second step has proved to be the best in my life let alone my Masonic life. Gordon brought me into the Shakespeare Lodge of Mark Master Masons which at the time was huge! Well in excess of 50 members with some of the most illustrious members of the Degree either in or associated with the Lodge. That’s when the awesome trio got hold of myself and my dearest friend in all of Masonry, VW Bro.Derek Griffin (my best and most admired friend in Freemasonry) were “Hooked, Rooked and finished off by an Albutt!. Hardly dragged kicking and streaming but rather encouraged to be itinerant Senior Deacons in the Mark. I think Griff and I Señor Deaconed at least 30 Mark Master Masons between us! My fondest memory was to be Senior Deacon in the double Advancement of the Ashmore twins. They didn’t work out how I could tell them apart until I ‘fessed up’ that I’d put ‘Post It’ notes on their backs to tell them apart during the ceremony!
The ‘Happy Degree’ isn’t called that without good reason. Contrary to the deprecation from some sectors of the Fraternity, our ceremonies are deeply sincere and require a high degree of ritualistic skill from all the Officers. Our ‘Chants’ are from scripture and have deep significance, if you choose to listen. The moral stories have as much significance today as at their inception. The lessons of moral integrity, brotherly love, relief and truth are deeply embedded in the Mark. There are NO degrees superior to another and one can only learn by whatever moves one’s soul. The Craft is the undeniable route to our advancement but it is no5t the purest or most ancient of anything. Freemasonry as we know is organic and derives its strength in depth rather than the shallowest of waters.
David Hooker, Ray Rooke and Ron Albutt ‘encouraged Derek and I to spread our wings and enjoy the ritual to its fullest and for that I am sure we are both are eternally grateful. They also ‘encouraged’ us into many other orders to make our ‘daily advancement in Masonic Knowledge’. Our sojourns into so many degrees could never exceed our enjoyment of the Mark. If I have one personal regret it was leaving these shores for pastures anew that simply didn’t measure up. I am not an ambitious Mason, as that is a fools errand. But, it has taught me to be grateful for favours received and to serve is far more satisfying to a Mason’s heart than to lust after preferment.
In my professional life I have been graced to be a leader of men but nothing is more satisfying than to give back and serve to a greater and more noble end. If I had any more sincere words of advice, then it would be that in the Mark we build a Temple made of living stones. Bonded by the mortar of happiness and brotherly love. Cemented by the joy of true Fellowship and solidified by friendships that will last a lifetime. After all, you have to build a Temple before you can step upon its chequered pavements and indulge in its adornments. The Mark is the completion of the only true requirement to ‘preside over a Lodge of Operative masons’ that being a Fellow of the Craft. My advice? Compete your journey as a Fellow, build your Temple and make the foundation of your Masonic future secure.
For further information on joining the Happy degree in Freemasonry, speak to any Mark Master Mason. Watch for those in your Craft Lodges who clasp their hands whenever the Chaplain speaks at a festive board. It has deep meaning. Come join us and find out why.
W.Bro.Martin Grahame-Dunn – Webmaster