Sunday, July 26, 2009

Knight versus Higham - part 2 - Personal Advancement

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 1

And at that point let's leave that question and move on, thank you Mrs Fiddie for your question, to Ian Morshead in Dorking who's got a question about the movement in general. Hullo Mr Morshead.


Oh hullo, good morning everybody. I would like to ask Commander Higham in general what motivates people to join Freemasonry, because a country solicitor once told me- a solicitor incidentally, because you were talking about solicitors just now- he said if you want to do business, any business virtually, in a small country town you won't get anywhere unless you become a mason, and this is a very worrying thing, because you must be joining for advancement which is not the reason that I would have thought a mason would join ....

Commander Higham- can I just pick up your question Mr Moorhead because rather a bad line from Dorking I'm afraid- what motivates people to join the Masonic movement. Is it for advancement within their profession?

(H) No. Anybody who wants to become a mason is first of all proposed and seconded by people who know him well, they then quite likely will go before a committee of members of the lodge, he then has to apply, and at at least two of those stages he is specifically asked questions why he's joining Masonry, and the answer which is expected is that he is not doing it to advance himself, he says it in conversation to the committee, he says it on a declaration form before he's initiated, the first question when he gets inside the lodge has to do with his motives for joining, he is reminded of it during the rituals and when he's presented with his grand lodge certificate he is reminded again, and the message is always that Freemasonry is not to advance. There's no personal or professional interest.

What is the point of it, then?

(H) It used to be a sort of haven, in the very old days, two hundred and fifty years ago, where people could go and be away from the very fierce religious and political controversy of the times, it was a social connection, it had charitable aims, it looks after, it promotes morality, it teaches good citizenship and nowadays it follows all those aims. But the prime thing is that Masonry is not there to advance personal interest, and I'm afraid that Mr Morshead's solicitor chum has got a misapprehension about masonry. It's a very difficult one to dispel but there is absolutely no doubt that masonry is not there for personal advancement.

Stephen Knight do you share that misapprehension, as the Commander puts it?

(K) I agree with Commander Higham that Freemasonry is not there to promote personal advancement, but can Commander Higham really say that he believes that anyone who's joining it for personal advancement would not answer 'no' to the question on 'are you joining for personal advancement?'

(H) I think you'd have to admit that there must be somebody who would go through the joining process I've described, who's got a different motive and is prepared to fib his way in. I think he'll find he's a fish out of water, and I hope, I'd like to think that his brethren in Freemasonry would perhaps persuade him that his way of thinking wasn't right. And that's I think the truth of it. You do get people who want to advance themselves, who are prepared to tell fibs: but they're not really the sort of people who ought to be masons.

Presumably, Commander, you also do get people who do advance themselves through the movement, through knowing the right people?

(H) It's a- you're arguing from the particular to the general. Yes, people who are Masons do advance, but I don't think that they advance because they're Masons.

Mr. Morshead thank you for raising that question. I think it'll crop up later on in a different form, so please stay with us, but we'll move on now to Bramsgore in Hampshire and talk to Michael Oliver. Hullo, Mr Oliver. What's your question please?

Michael Oliver:

Oh good morning. I'd like to make a small comment in that, in the leader to the programme just before the Nine O'Clock News Mr Knight said that he had no complaints about Freemasonry as an organisation. I think anybody who's taken the trouble to read his book with any care would tend to doubt that statement. I would like to put to these two protagonists this morning that the book is in fact an attack on the legal system, there's a great inference there that the 'first eleven' of the legal profession doesn't want to be preferred to high office in the judiciary and the' second eleven', as it was put in the book, use Freemasonry to jostle for position. I think Freemasonry is possibly being used as a convenient vehicle for a more insidious attack on the legal profession, and I wonder what the two protagonists think about this.

Well let me put it to the first protagonist, Stephen Knight in this case, an attack on the legal profession, the 'first eleven' wouldn't get anywhere if they weren't masons?

(K) I don't say that in the book. That is part of one point I make in the book. The book nevertheless is about Freemasonry and anyone who reads it carefully is not in any doubt about that. And what more can I say? I mean that's it, the book is about Freemasonry.

But you do give the impression that a lot of barristers and judges and solicitors have got advancement through being members.

(K) oh yes, yes I do, and that is true. That the law especially has a lot of Freemasons in it.

Would you like to come back on that Mr Oliver before we move to Commander Higham?

Yes I certainly would, because I don't think that- you had that a little wrong actually, the 'first eleven' do not want preference in the higher offices of the judiciary because there's not enough money about, it's the 'second eleven' that Mr Knight- I don't think there's any doubt about it, he does say that the 'first eleven' does not want to be in high office, it would avoid it, and the 'second eleven' uses the lodges to gain high office, and the inference there is of course that we're not getting the best judges.

I think we'd better clarify what you mean and what Stephen means by the 'first eleven' Mr Oliver.

Well the 'first eleven', as he states quite clearly to me in his book, are the people who are the best in their profession and can earn extremely high fees. He mentions half a million a year in one instance. He's talking about a forty thousand pound fee for a High Court judge, you'll forgive me if I-but his is the sort of order we're talking about. And it's the others who, as Mr Knight says in his book, by the time they're fifty, if they haven't really made It, this is when they go and join the lodges to make sure that they've got a good pension arrangement, that's what he says in the book quite unequivocally. I'm not a lawyer incidentally, or connected with the legal profession in any way.

All right Mr Oliver, let Stephen answer that point.

(K) I do make that statement. I don't make it as generalised or as specific rather as it is being suggested here. What can I say?

Would you care to answer the point that you've implied that judges get good........

(K) There are sixty percent of judges who are Freemasons, and forty percent who aren't. So it clearly isn't as strongly as it is being suggested.

Would you like to come in there Commander Higham?

(H) I'm amazed at Mr Knight's knowledge of what Freemasons- the proportion of Freemasons among the judiciary. We can't possibly confirm his, we don't keep records of what people's professions are after they join masonry. I don't think there's any harm in barristers making money. I think there's an enormous amount of misunderstanding of the promotion system in any organisation, if people honestly believe that someone in charge promoting judges in the country is likely to pay any attention to Freemasonry. And in fact the Lord Chancellor himself has written to the press to say that not only is he not a mason, no member of his staff who assists him in selecting judges is a mason either, which I think makes him fairly proof against masonic influence. But if he was a mason I would like to think that he would also resist pressure because the pressure would be improper. If any pressure was put on to promote somebody to a judicial office because he was a mason I hope first of all that the man wouldn't get promoted and second that, or that the man who made the suggestion wouldn't get promoted either.

Wouldn't it be better, though, Commander, in the end if a membership list was published and then everyone could see exactly who was a mason and who wasn't and then the figures about influence would be absolutely, you know, carte blanche, one would be able to see exactly who was what?

(H) No, I don't think it would, and I've given you part of the reason for that already, and I'm glad we've come back to it. The first one is that Freemasons' lodges are like clubs. Nobody has I think so far, is trying to say that every club should publish a list of its members merely on the basis that because, if they meet in the bar of the club they're going to transact business and rig things. The second one I've referred to, and I'd just like to go on with it. If a Freemason joins the craft on the basis that he's not allowed to advance himself and he's told not to exhibit his Grand Lodge certificate, which is, another thing that he's told not to do, it could be said that if you publish list of masons that the publication is to assist people to advance themselves through their membership of the craft and we're against it for that reason as well. I don't think it's going to help, I think you've got to trust people in local councils or in the judiciary or in the police to do the job they're principally there for, and realise that Freemasons have to think about their priorities they know that their duty to the law, to their profession, to their council, to their employer prevails over any obligation to masons and they're reminded of it again and again and again.

Of course that is one of the questions that people who are critical of masons might dispute, but let me at this point thank Mr Oliver for his question and move on to Mr Leslie Hopkins who's in Devizes in Wiltshire.

....continued in Part 3

Knight versus Higham - part 1 - Secrecy, Women & Disclosure

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.


Good morning. The world of Freemasonry conjures up all sorts of strange and mysterious pictures to outsiders, a world of secret oath taking, elaborate ritual, a special handshake, and perhaps above all an all-pervading influence over its membership. Freemasonry as we know it today goes back about three hundred years, and many distinguished figures have been and are Freemasons. Mozart, George Washington, Garibaldi, members of our present Royal Family - the Duke of Kent is currently Grand Master of Britain's 700,000 Masons - members of the professions, the church and the armed forces.

Lately, though, Freemasonry's come under suspicion for unwarranted involvement in, for instance, police matters, local government, and in Italy, where masonry is rather different, the P2 scandal. Earlier this year, Stephen Knight brought out a book called The Brotherhood which contains strong criticisms of masonic influence particularly in the church, and in jobs and careers generally. He is with me in our studio today and so is Commander Michael Higham, Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England, appearing live for the first time on a radio programme to answer your questions, and Stephen Knight's, about Freemasonry. Is it for instance a religion or an allegorical science? Do masons, members of the Craft' as they're often called, promote masons at the expense of non-masons, why are women excluded, and why, above all, are they so secretive?

Well our number, on which you can find out, we hope, answers to some of those questions, is 01-580.4411. Our first caller lives in Walton on Thames, and he is David Pointsmerton Smith. Good morning Mr Smith.


Good morning, dear.

What's your question?

I`d like to know why, when they hold their meetings, it's so secret that people who are working in a hotel washing up have got to clear out. I`d like to know why.

You think that the masonic influence is totally secret?

Yes, I do.

And why are they so secret? Commander Higham, are masons secret?

(H) No they're not. They are a private organisation, they're definitely not a secret society, their aims have been published and are available if you want to go and buy them, they've been published in the newspapers, and there's very little you'll find, I think, in this programme that we can't discuss about Freemasonry. Mr Smith's question about waiters at a masonic dinner is simply to allow Freemasons to refer in any speech they make to a matter which may have gone on in lodge, not because they're going to discuss any great secret matter, it's something that they prefer to be private among themselves when they make speeches about Freemasonry.

Mr Smith, would you like to come back on that?

Yes I think perhaps you've answered the question very well Commander, and I-because I was in a hotel washing up where they used to hold the lodges, bud when they had the meeting we had to clear out, know what I mean, where there's no noise whatsoever.

(H) Yes I do, and I also know that in the serveries of hotels the waiters can hear exactly what goes on, so the disappearance is one rather of form at the best rather than substance. I've heard waitresses criticising the performance of masonic fire in a dining room, they know the drill rather better than some of the masons, which I think proves how secret the whole organisation is.

Stephen Knight, you having investigated the masonic movement, would you accept that there isn't much secrecy? For instance the lists of members are not published, are they?

(K) No, and this is my concern. As far as I am concerned masons as much as anybody else have a right to their own privacy and their own private meetings, and I'm not at all concerned about what goes on behind their locked doors. What I am concerned about is who is, it's finding out who, or the opportunity to find out, who is a member and who isn't, and this really is my definition of a secret society. Unless you can find out who is a mason, unless there is a published register, and I think the contents of my book give strong evidence that there must be a public register, if there isn't that then it remains a secret society.

Now why you're keen that we should know who the members of the masonic movement are will emerge during this programme I think, but we'll thank Mr Smith for his question and go on to talk to Mrs Joan Fiddie who lives in Broxbourne" Hullo Mrs Fiddie, what's your question?


Thank you. I am a Freemason and a district councillor, and we are debating in council this evening a motion that says that the council be required to maintain a register that all councillors provide details of their membership if any of Freemasons' lodges and other similar organisations.

You're talking about local councillors Mrs Fiddie?

Yes, local councillors. And my question is should we declare an interest in this motion or stay in the chamber to debate same, and I do have a second question ....

Well now, you've raised two questions I think in your question itself, because, you have given us the impression that there are women who are Masons, is that right?

Yes, there are women, there are many women masons, there are many women lodges and we are proud to say we are Freemasons, accepted by Grand Lodge.

Do you, you do accept them, do you, Commander Higham, as masons?

(H) I think that Mrs Fiddie's Grand Lodge is different from my Grand Lodge. The Grand Lodge of England which deals with masons in England and Wales, and not Britain as you said, Miss MacGregor in the introduction deals with men and masonry, there is another Grand Lodge, which we have no official contact with, which organises women's Freemasonry.


Right, now the other part of Mrs Fiddie's question was about local councillors should they- and members of the police etcetera- should they declare to the general public that they are Freemasons?

(H) If standing orders lawfully require that somebody should declare membership then any Freemason under the Grand Lodge of England would comply with standing orders. I believe that there's doubt about the legality of such standing orders. There is a law which says that a councillor must declare his financial interest, I don't think there's a law yet which says he must declare his personal ones. There is however a rule of practice which means that a councillor declares his personal interests if they're relevant. I don't believe that publishing lists of Freemasons' lodges is going to assist the performance of that duty by a councillor, and as Freemasons' lodges are very much akin to private members clubs I think they have every right to resist any move that they should publish their names.

Of course Commander, as you know, there is a movement, particularly amongst I think Liberal and Labour local councillors that any local councillor who is a mason should declare so publicly. Stephen Knight do you think that this would be a good Idea, and why?

(K) I think it would be a good idea simply to guard against that minority of Freemasons- and in speaking of a minority I say that if five per cent of Freemasons are corrupt it is still a very large number, 25,000 or thereabouts, in this country-to guard against any possible future conspiracy between corrupt Freemasons in secret. And this also applies to solicitors, particularly, I mean a man who is taking action against a Freemason is going to want to know whether his solicitor is a Freemason or not. Now that's not to say that the solicitor he goes to even if he is a mason is going to act against his interest, quite the opposite. I've never suggested such a thing, but there is that danger because it has happened in the past.

How would the Freemason's solicitor recognise that the other solicitor's client is a mason?

(K) The other-well, I mean it could be, he could be informed, and he could get a letter. There are all sorts of ways in which people can learn that other people are masons.

And how might the influence be bad in local government?

(K) What is-I've been told not to talk in specifics, but ....

In general terms.

(K) It just undermines democracy. It can undermine democracy. Masons who are in local government can get together with mason councillors can get together with mason officers in lodge and decide the way things are going to go in advance. And although this isn't against any law it is against the spirit of the Redcliffe Maude Report which suggested that councillors and officers should keep each other at arm's length.

Commander Higham?

(H) Two points about that. One is that I think Mr Knight greatly exaggerates the number of Freemasons in the country and therefore his percentage figures are slightly suspect. I don't believe that we've got more than 500,000 members under my Grand Lodge and five per cent of that is not the figure he mentioned. The other is that I think this move for open government shows a great mistrust of councillors as councillors. They ought to know what their job is and if they are Freemasons they'd know their job better. And if anybody believes that Freemasons only go to lodge meetings to rig the next council meeting they've got a strange idea of what goes on in lodges. We're much too busy about other things, and I hope that as we go on I shall be able to explain it. But the prime duty of a councillor is to his council and Freemasonry comes a long way second.

Mrs Fiddie, can ask you briefly to answer the question of whether you think it would be a good idea for masons to declare their interest as it were?

Well I do feel it's an infringement on civil liberties. If Freemasons have to provide details, and the specific thing is "and other similar organisations" should not the register then take in the Ancient Order of Foresters, Inner Wheel, trade unions, Rotary, Toc H, ab lib? Why just Masonry?

Well presumably if people want to declare that they are members of those organisations they can.

Then that would clear the whole of the council chamber because everybody in some way or other belongs to an organisation.

(K) It wouldn't clear the whole of the council chamber, what would happen is that you would know who belonged to what organisations.

And at that point let's leave that question and move on, .............. (continued in part 2)